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One Hundred Years after the Bolshevik Counterrevolution

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 19:19

https://crimethinc.com/2017/11/07/one-hundred-years-after-the-bolshevik-...

A Timeline Charting the Repression of Revolutionary Movements

A century ago, on November 7, 2017, the Bolshevik seizure of power got underway in revolutionary Russia. Following up our compilation of voices who spoke out against the rise of Soviet totalitarianism, “Restless Specters of the Anarchist Dead,” we present this translation of a text that appeared today in Catalan. It offers a detailed timeline of the Bolshevik crackdown on revolutionary currents in Russia, starting before the so-called October Revolution and running up to the treaty between Stalin and Hitler.

The current text is no more than a summary, a small reminder of a historical disaster that still resonates in our struggles today. This October 2017, a hundred years later, it falls on us to remember the Bolshevik appropriation of the Russian Revolution, which constituted a disaster for the working class, a disaster for the Russian people and all the peoples subject to the Russian Empire, a disaster for anti-capitalist movements on a world scale, a disaster for everyone seeking freedom, a disaster for humanity.

Forward, comrades—into counterrevolution!

A Predictable Disaster

The counterrevolutionary drift of the USSR was predictable. Bakunin foresaw just how a “dictatorship of the proletariat” would quickly turn into yet another dictatorship over the proletariat, 50 years before it occurred. In the following years, many other anti-capitalists arrived at the same conclusion. It was a pretty safe bet, considering how the leaders of the new dictatorship found their inspiration in another counterrevolutionary figure, Karl Marx.

We don’t make this assertion lightly, denouncing as “counterrevolutionary” a person who, beyond any doubt, was so important to anti-capitalist struggles. We wouldn’t ever take such a step over simple disagreements in theoretical matters. It is only after a painstaking survey of the consequences of Marx’s actions that we arrive at this conclusion.

Marx implanted colonial and white supremacist attitudes in the heart of the anti-capitalist movement, and he broke the autonomy of this movement so completely that 150 years later we still haven’t recovered.

To name a single example, Marx celebrated the US conquest of Mexico, using openly racist terms to contrast the “energetic” Yankees with the lazy and “primitive” Mexicans. His idea of dialectical progress shared the element of white supremacy with the liberalism of the day. He was convinced that the Western nations were the most advanced in the world and that all the other peoples would have to emulate Europe and follow the same path to liberate themselves. As such, he was an unapologetic defender of colonialism, which he recognized as an exercise of capitalist violence, but which he also believed was vital to the progress of “primitive” peoples.

Apart from his racism, Marx was an authoritarian complicit with bourgeois institutions. One of the strongest features of the workers’ movement in the 19th century was its autonomy. It was a movement built by the workers themselves and within it the institutions of the class enemy had no place. Marx ruined all that with his obstinate insistence that in order to win, according to his theory—a theory which history has torn to shreds, a theory that predicted the anti-capitalist revolutions would occur in Germany and the UK, definitely not in Russia or Spain—the working class had to adopt the political forms of its enemy, organizing itself in political parties and entering the bourgeois institutions, the parliaments where monarchists and capitalists struggled for control of a power based solely in the subordination of the peasants and workers, a power that could not even exist without the continued domination of these classes.

Marx was accustomed to being surrounded by lackeys. When he realized that there were independent minds and contrary opinions within the International Workingmen’s Association, that it was no longer his personal fan club, he conspired and made use of all the dirty tricks that have since become well-known methods of manipulating assemblies in order to kick out all those who differed with him and who opposed the obviously erroneous tactic of creating political parties. This was not merely a conflict between two positions, Marxist and anarchist, nor was it a duel between Marx and Bakunin. Marx excluded not only anarchists but anyone who disagreed with him, including feminists like André Leó, participant in the Paris Commune (a movement which Marx initially denounced).

As a result of the split, the majority of the International broke with the Marxist faction. Many people who are only familiar with oversimplified accounts centered on Marx assume that as soon as the headquarters of the International were moved to New York, the organization was effectively finished, but in fact it was only the smaller Marxist splinter group that immediately became moribund. The majority of the International continued organizing together according to anarchist principles for half a decade more, as the Marxist historian Steklov was forced to recount in his history of the International. It took five more years of continuous state repression to destroy the organization, and that only succeeded because Marxists and other statist elements of the labor movement refused to act in solidarity with revolutionary labor organizing.

Marx’s controversial strategy—to convert the International into a tool for entry into bourgeois institutions via social-democratic parties—was an embarrassing failure, just as his critics predicted. The new parties wasted no time in selling out the working class to their new professional colleagues, the bourgeoisie. What’s more, Marx’s main heirs, such as the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany, sent the working class off to the counterrevolutionary slaughterhouse that was World War I.

Nestor Makhno on May 1, 1907, in the front row on the far left, with fellow members of an anarchist organization in his hometown.

Lenin: From German Agent to Butcher of the Working Class

From early on, Lenin was a leader of the Bolshevik (“majority”) faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party, which would later become the Communist Party.

He was an intellectual from a bourgeois family who never stopped playing the role of manager. We can’t deny that a person doesn’t choose where they are born, and can decide to renounce their privilege and fight alongside the oppressed. But Lenin was the architect of a pseudo-revolutionary state that would be directed by his class. From the beginning, the USSR was a dictatorship of intellectuals and bureaucrats oppressing the exploited classes. Lenin never abandoned his class interests. He called on the workers and peasants to rise up for the same reason that during the Revolution he appropriated anarchist discourses (in The State and Revolution, which scandalized the members of his own party who didn’t understand that the text was simply a manipulative attempt to win the support of the masses and an alliance with the anarchists, who constituted a key force in the October insurrection). All of this was calculated to motivate the masses to serve as cannon fodder for his ambitions.

Lenin was even more authoritarian than Marx. As the leader of the Bolsheviks, he maneuvered to expel the Mensheviks, Bogdanovists, and other currents from the Party. He differed with the former because they favored freedom of opinion whereas he believed that the entire Party must adhere to their leaders’ dogmas and decisions. He differed with the latter simply because they represented a threat to his control of the Party. He alleged that Bogdanov wasn’t an orthodox Marxist, but neither was Lenin; for years, he had appropriated the idea of the anarchists and the esery (Socialist Revolutionaries or SRs) that a revolution could be made in Russia without passing through a constitutional period.

On the eve of the Russian Revolution, Lenin was in contact with the secret police of the German Empire. It was only thanks to them that he was able to return to Russia amid the tumult of the World War. They also gave financial aid to his Party. In exchange for the aid, they expected Lenin to pull Russia out of the war, freeing up the Germans’ eastern front.

In the end, Lenin was more faithful to the German imperialists than to the workers and peasants. Even though many other Bolsheviks were horrified by his proposed collaboration with Germany, the dictatorship that Lenin had already established within his Party prevailed. Without consulting the Polish and Ukrainian peoples, historically occupied by Tsarist Russia, Lenin ceded those territories to the German imperialists along with a huge bounty in money and raw materials that contributed to the slaughter of the working class on the western front.

Contrary to the Leninist or Trotskyist version, which attributes all the brutality of the USSR to Joseph Stalin, the bloody repression of the worker and peasant classes and the effort to rebuild capitalism began in the first year of the dictatorship when Lenin was still in charge.

Lenin and Stalin: two of a kind.

A Revolution Derailed

The February Revolution of 1917 resulted in a parliamentary government immobilized by the unrealistic attempt to reform the old regime while protecting dominant interests. The October Revolution (which began on November 7, according to the modern calendar), was supposed to put an end to the power of the bourgeoisie and aristocrats and allow the self-organization of society via the soviets, assemblies of workers, peasants, and soldiers, which had appeared spontaneously in the 1905 Revolution and reemerged with the February Revolution.

On November 7, the Bolsheviks and their allies rose up in Petrograd, beginning the second revolution. On November 8, a detachment of anarchist sailors from Kronstadt, led by the anarchist Zhelezniakov and in coordination with the Bolsheviks, captured the Winter Palace, abolishing the Provisional Government.

The same Zhelezniakov was also chosen to lead a detachment that seized and abolished the Constituent Assembly in January of the following year. He led a flotilla and then an armored train battalion against the White Army during the Civil War. Although he protested the Bolsheviks’ imposition of hierarchical measures and the restoration of tsarist officers within the Red Army, he was too valuable as a military strategist to cast aside. The Bolsheviks invited him to rejoin them—he had gone to Crimea to fight against the Whites in an autonomous formation—and they assigned him the command of the armored train campaign to halt the advance of the White General, Denikin. He died in combat in 1919.

Subsequently, it became clear that the Bolsheviks did not coordinate with anarchists out of a spirit of solidarity. On the contrary, they systematically assigned anarchists the most dangerous roles so that they would assume the physical and political consequences if things went poorly.

In November 1917, the Bolsheviks took advantage of a temporary majority they had in the Second Pan-Russian Congress of Soviets, thanks to the disorganization of the other parties after the coup against the Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks’ able propaganda, and their political and intellectual profile (they didn’t represent a majority within the working class but they did get a majority of chosen delegates). At the Congress, they converted the Central Executive Committee into a largely independent government organ standing over the soviets. Previously, the Committee had been an organ devoid of state power that was only supposed to give continuity to the tasks of the Congress of Soviets. The Bolsheviks’ maneuver turned it into the executive power of a new state. And this Committee, formed by delegates elected by delegates elected by delegates (the three layers of representation were the local soviets, the Congress of Soviets, and the Central Executive Committee) was controlled—inevitably—not by the people but by the most Machiavellian and opportunistic bureaucrats, which is to say: the Bolsheviks. Subsequently, the Party under Lenin’s intransigent dictatorship had the new Central Executive Committee form the Council of People’s Commissars, or Sovnarkom, which quickly became the supreme authority of the new state, in charge of reorganizing the economy and administering state affairs. And its chairman was—what a surprise—Lenin!

The Bolsheviks did not honor any of the other decisions of the Second Pan-Russian Congress of Soviets. They abandoned the entire opportunistic program they had used to attain a majority of delegates—the agrarian program, the proposal for seeking a dignified withdrawal from the war, the decision to create a Constituent Assembly. Now that they had created the bureaucratic layers capable of legitimating their dictatorship, they no longer had to fight for the interests of the workers and peasants. Subsequently, the Congress of Soviets would do little more than rubber stamp the decisions of the Sovnarkom.

On December 5, 1917, the Bolsheviks established the Cheka, the secret police, who directed their activity against other revolutionary currents from the very beginning. The Cheka were led by Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat.

Dzerzhinsky, head of the Cheka.

On December 22, 1917, the Bolsheviks began to negotiate with Germany and the other Central Powers, arrogating the authority to speak in the name of the whole of Russian society, as well as the peoples occupied by the Russian Empire.

On December 30, 1917, the Bolsheviks carried out their first operation of political repression. The Cheka arrested a small group of SRs, ostensible allies, including a delegate of the Constituent Assembly, who formed a part of the opposition.

In January 1918, the Bolsheviks abandoned the Constituent Assembly and orchestrated its suppression, together with the anarchists. Whereas the anarchists opposed the Assembly as a bourgeois organ that counteracted the power of the soviets, the Bolsheviks had demanded the creation of the Assembly after the February Revolution and they had stood in the elections. They only turned against the Assembly once they were unable to win a majority.

In March 1918, the Bolsheviks signed a humiliating peace treaty with Germany that went against all the working class proposals for ending the war. They paid a huge war compensation and ceded control over various nations previously under tsarist domination (in effect, the Baltic countries, Poland, and Ukraine). In Ukraine, the peasants organized a guerrilla war and won many battles against the German imperialists, proving the viability of the proposal of anarchists and others for “neither war nor peace,” by which they meant ending the imperialist war but resisting any military occupation through revolutionary guerrilla tactics. Lenin imposed his rejection of this option, probably because he knew his elitist Party would be incapable of controlling a decentralized guerrilla campaign. He preferred the defeat and occupation of Ukraine over an uncontrolled revolution.

As a consequence, the SRs, an important ally of the Bolsheviks, declared that the latter were German proxies and left the government.

In April 1918, the Cheka began its first extrajudicial executions in an operation against anarchists in Petrograd and Moscow. By the end of the operation, they had executed 800 without trials. Their rhetoric was to attack “class enemies,” but their secret orders were to liquidate all anarchist organizations in the two principal cities.

On April 12, 1918, the Bolsheviks attacked 26 anarchist centers in Moscow, killing dozens and arresting 500. Threatened by the dramatic growth of the anarchist movement in Moscow, Trotsky and the Bolshevik press had carried out a media campaign in collaboration with the local bourgeoisie, accusing veteran revolutionaries of being “bandits” and “criminals” for expropriating bourgeois properties, even though these were put to the use of the revolution.

In June 1918, Trotsky abolished any kind of worker control over the Red Army, destroying the proletarian tradition that allowed soldiers to elect their officers and enjoy real equality. He restored the old hierarchies in the army—of aristocratic origin—and complemented them with a new ideological hierarchy upheld through the sinister presence of the Cheka at every level, destroying the capacity of the Red Army to function as a bastion of revolutionary ideas and turning it into a mere tool of the Party.

As before, officers received status and high pay while the common soldiers became thralls, and anyone—officer or soldier—who spoke out against the regime would be shot.

Simultaneously, Trotsky carried out a mass recruitment of officers from the old Tsarist army. Under Bolshevik dominion, the Red Army became an aristocratic army. As a result of this initiative, in 1918 75% of the officers were former tsarists, and by the end of the Civil War that figure had climbed to 83%. Rather than fomenting leadership among the masses, the Bolsheviks returned authority to an elite.

On the contrary, all the prominent leaders of the anarchist formations in the Civil War—Maria Nikiforova, Nestor Makhno, Fyodor Shchuss, Olga Taratuta, Anatoli Zhelezniakov, Novoselov, Lubkov—were chosen by their comrades according to their abilities, and they were workers or peasants, in contrast to the bourgeoisie, aristocrats, and intelligentsia who dominated in the Bolshevik camp. And they were among the most effective on the battlefield. While Trotsky suffered one defeat after another, Zhelezniakov and Makhno played decisive roles in the defeat of the White Army General Denikin. Subsequently, it was Makhno and his guerrillas who seized the Perekop Isthmus, the key stronghold of the Crimean Peninsula, the loss of which spelled defeat for White Army General Pyotr Wrangel. And in wide swaths of Siberia, anarchist guerrilla detachments, like those of Lubkov and Novoselov, played a key role in stopping the advance of the White Army in 1918 and 1919, even though it was the Red Army that shot them in the end.

White Army General Pyotr Wrangel.

In the same month, June 1918, the Party implemented their policy of “war communism.” There was nothing communist about it; rather, it constituted the Party’s monopolization of the entire economy. It wasn’t workers and peasants who controlled the factories and the land, but bureaucrats ruling from faraway offices. This policy, aside from the nationalization of all industry, imposed a strict discipline on the workers, a worsening of labor conditions and a lengthening of the workday; it turned striking into an offense punishable by firing squad; it established state control over international commerce; it legalized the forcible appropriation of all the peasants’ goods and properties, thus inaugurating an agrarian policy even harsher and more exploitative than that of tsarist serfdom. This, of course, led to millions of deaths among the peasants and provoked constant rural rebellions against Bolshevik power.

It would be the new aristocratic Red Army that would crush these revolts, just as during the tsarist dictatorship. Another important factor in the evolution of the bureaucratic dictatorship: starting in the same month, the Party arrogated to itself the right to veto the decisions of any soviet.

In July 1918, the left SRs initiated an insurrection against Bolshevik power. They were defeated, illegalized, and expelled from the soviet government. As a consequence, the Bolsheviks ended up with an absolute monopoly on state power and prohibited the participation of other parties in the soviets.

At some point in 1918, acting under orders from Lenin, the Bolsheviks established their first concentration camps, which would give rise to the gulag system that claimed millions of lives during Stalin’s reign.

In August 1918, Lenin ordered the use of “mass terror” against a rebellion in the city of Nizhny Novgorod and against a peasant revolt in the Penza region. The rebellions were protests against the new policy of “war communism.” Nonetheless, Lenin founded a long Communist tradition of accusing any critic or dissident of being a secret right-wing agent (rather hypocritical of him, considering he had worked as an agent of imperialist interests, and just that summer had personally apologized to the German government after revolutionaries had assassinated the German ambassador). He ordered mass executions of those suspected of disloyalty, the execution of prostitutes, whom he blamed for the lack of discipline in his army, and the execution of a hundred random peasants in order to send a message so that “all the people in many miles see it, understand, and tremble.”

On September 5, 1918, the Cheka were assigned the policy of the “Red Terror.” They claimed that this was directed against the Whites and counterrevolutionaries, but it was an immediate response to two assassination attempts (one successful) carried out by left-wing revolutionaries—Fanya Kaplan and Leonid Kannegisser—against Bolshevik leaders to avenge their repressive policies. The “Red Terror” was clearly a policy of liquidation aimed at any enemy or critic of Bolshevik power, as they themselves declared in their newspaper on September 3, “We must crush the counterrevolutionary hydra through mass terror […] anyone who dares spread the slightest rumor against the Soviet regime will be immediately arrested and sent to the concentration camps.” In the first two months, they killed between 10,000 and 15,000, many of them members of other revolutionary currents. By 1922, they had killed as many as 1.5 million, some of them Whites and tsarists, but the great majority peasants, workers, dissidents, and revolutionaries.

Fanya Kaplan.

It must be said that the White Army was the first to practice mass executions—against Red Army prisoners—but the Bolsheviks took advantage of the situation to organize an unprecedented repression against all the other currents of the Revolution.

In November 1918, throughout a large territory in south Ukraine comprising 7 million inhabitants, primarily peasants, locals founded the Volnaya Territoriya or “Free Territory,” an anarchist society based on communes, free and decentralized militias, land collectivization without intermediaries and direct worker control of industry, universal education based on the modern pedagogy of Francesc Ferrer i Guardia, and soviets free from party control but open to participation from any current of the worker and peasant classes and federated in a decentralized way.

The movement was rooted in the anarchist militias that had fought against the German occupiers to whom Lenin had handed over the entire country. The peasant militias immediately began holding the line against General Denikin of the White Army, but Lenin and Trotsky kept them from receiving munitions and functioning weapons, effectively sabotaging the front and causing many deaths. In the rearguard, the peasants prevented the Bolsheviks from taking over the revolution.

Throughout the whole of 1919, the Cheka continued and expanded a policy initiated the year before to execute Red Army deserters. As an authoritarian, involuntary army, the Red Army was plagued with desertions, of which there were more than a million in a year. Many conscripted soldiers tried to go home, and many others joined up with “Green Armies” of peasants who were trying to defend their lands from plundering by the Whites or the Communists. In Ukraine, tens of thousands joined up with the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the anarchists.

In cases of mass desertion, the Cheka fell back on the tactic of holding family members hostage and executing them one by one until the soldiers returned (and then executing an exemplary number of the deserters).

In February 1919, the Bolsheviks granted an amnesty to the SRs. The White Army was advancing on all fronts, and the Communists desperately needed allies (the previous November, they had re-legalized the Mensheviks after these declared their support for the government). When the SRs came out of clandestinity and set up offices in Moscow, the Cheka began arresting successive waves of SR leadership, accusing them of conspiracy, in order to bring about the fracturing and then destruction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party.

Between March 12 and 14, 1919, in the city of Astrakhan, the Cheka executed between 2000 and 4000 striking workers and Red Army soldiers who had joined them. Many were thrown into the river with stones tied to their necks, while the rest were killed by firing squad. To give an idea of the primarily anti-worker and counterrevolutionary scope of the Communists’ activities, during the same repressive campaign they killed a significantly smaller number of bourgeoisie, between 600 and 1000. The primary victims of the Bolsheviks were from the popular classes.

A breadline.

The 16th of March, 1919, in Petrograd, the Cheka assaulted the Putilov factory, where workers starving to death had begun a strike demanding larger food rations, freedom of the press, the end of the Red Terror, and the elimination of the privileges held by Communist Party members. 900 were arrested and 200 executed without trial.

The Cheka also repressed strikes in the cities of Orel, Tver, Tula, and Ivanovo. In the course of the repression, the Cheka developed methods of torture surpassing those of the Inquisition. They slowly fed prisoners into ovens or vats of boiling water, they flayed prisoners, they buried peasants alive, they put rats in metal tubes against prisoners’ bodies and put flames under the tubes so that the rats would eat their way through the prisoners to escape.

Nestor Makhno, Fyodor Schuss, and Semen Karetnyk.

In June 1919, the Bolsheviks began their first attempt to illegalize and liquidate the peasant anarchists of Ukraine fighting alongside Makhno. Already in May, they had made a failed attempt to assassinate Makhno. Trotsky stated that he preferred for all of Ukraine to fall to the White Army than to leave the anarchists to carry out their activity. The campaign intensified after the defeat of Denikin, the White leader, in the fall. The anarchist fighters played a key role in his defeat and afterwards the Bolsheviks didn’t have as much need for an alliance with the anarchists… until Communist incompetence produced a new threat to the Soviet regime just one year later.

Between May 1 and 3, 1920, a peasant and anarchist insurrection broke out in the regions of Altai and Tomsk, with the eventual participation of 10,000 combatants. It was principally directed against the White Army, but their support for decentralized, local control ran them afoul of the Communists, who sought to crush the rebellion, illegalizing and destroying the Altai Anarchist Federation. The resistance continued until the end of 1921.

In June of 1920, women workers in Tula went on strike for the right to have a day off on Sundays. They were sent to the concentration camps.

On August 19, 1920, the Tambov peasant rebellion began when a “requisitioning” squad of the Red Army beat the old men of a small village to force the inhabitants to surrender more grain to the government. By October, the peasants had fielded 50,000 combatants to fight the Communist authority. They functioned as an autonomous, self-organized force fighting the Whites and the Bolsheviks. There were also several veteran revolutionaries from the left SRs who rose to leadership positions in the rebellion. By January 1921, the uprising had extended to include Samara, Astrakhan, Saratov, and parts of Siberia. With 70,000 combatants, they defended their territory from the Communists until victories on other fronts enabled the deployment of 100,000 Red Army soldiers. To crush the revolt, the Communists used chemical weapons for approximately three months in 1921, killing many civilians. They sent 50,000 peasants—mostly women and the elderly—to concentration camps as hostages. The majority died. Between the war, the concentration camps, and the executions, the region lost some 240,000 inhabitants, the great majority peasants and non-combatants.

In November 1920, the Bolsheviks initiated a major campaign against Makhno’s Revolutionary Insurgent Army in Ukraine, mobilizing tens of thousands of troops, many of which deserted to join the anarchists. The campaign began as a surprise attack. The day after anarchist forces managed to seize the Perekop Isthmus, the fortified pass into the Crimean Peninsula where Wrangel was based, and which the Red Army had been unable to take, the Bolsheviks began arresting and executing their supposed allies, the anarchists. Their treachery began ten months of intense guerrilla warfare before the Communists finally crushed the insurgent peasants.

Stepan Maximovich Petrichenko—anarcho-syndicalist, engineer for the Russian navy, ex-Bolshevik, and member of the revolutionary committee that led the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921.

On February 28, 1921, delegates of the revolutionary sailors and workers from the Kronstadt naval base published a declaration in solidarity with the workers of Petrograd, recently repressed after going on strike against the starvation conditions. The Bolsheviks responded with more repression, provoking a rebellion on Kronstadt. The Kronstadt rebels, long recognized as the heart of the revolution, demanded free soviets, an end to the Bolshevik dictatorship, and the recovery of the Revolution’s principles. Trotsky, “the butcher of Kronstadt,” led a military expedition that ended with the total suppression of the soviet on the 19th of March, the day before the anniversary of the Paris Commune. The Red Army played the role of the Versailles troops, executing more than 2000 people. They sent several thousand more to the gulag, where the majority died. Afterwards, the Bolshevik repression only increased. At the Party congress in April of that same year, as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman related in a letter, Lenin promoted the total liquidation of the anarchist movement, including those participating in the soviet government who had allied with the Bolsheviks.

Kronstadt sailors, 1921.

In March 1921, the Bolsheviks adopted the “New Economic Policy,” putting an end to “War Communism.” As Lenin himself recognized, the NEP represented “state capitalism,” a “free market and capitalism, both subject to state control”. The NEP gave rise to a new social class, the nepmani—men of the NEP or nouveaux riches—who enriched themselves thanks to the new conditions and at the expense of the working classes. It goes without saying that all of them were Communist Party bureaucrats. The NEP also resulted in treaties and trade relations with the main capitalist countries, starting with Great Britain (1921) followed by Germany (1922), and then the US and France.

The Communist Party at no point installed communism. Their first era constituted a bureaucratic monopoly based on the hyper-exploitation of workers and peasants, whereas the era of the NEP constituted a capitalist system with a higher degree of planning and centralization than the Western capitalist systems. That is, the Communists unleashed an insane level of repression against all the other revolutionary currents, drowning worker and peasant struggles in blood and lead, and in the end, all that sacrifice didn’t serve for anything more than establishing capitalism. In a country where the capitalists themselves had been unable to implant capitalism, the Communists did, thanks to their obsession with holding power at any price.

And contrary to later leftist revisionism, all this brutality and exploitation wasn’t the fault of Stalin; it started earlier, from their very first weeks in power and always under the direction of Lenin and Trotsky. From the beginning, the Bolsheviks operated as an intellectual vanguard independent of the soviets and the workers’ and peasants’ struggles. They used the soviets as a tool to conquer power, and when the soviets were no longer convenient, they suppressed them, just as they had repressed any expression of popular struggles. The Bolsheviks—a current of the Social Democratic Russian Workers’ Party, who went on to become the Communist Party—were the principal incarnation of the counterrevolution within the Russian Revolution.

Olga Taratuta, co-founder of the Ukrainian Anarchist Black Cross, arrested and murdered under Stalin; Nestor Makhno’s comrade Fyodor Schuss, who died in June 1921 during the subjugation of the Ukraine; Maria Nikiforova, another leader of anarchist partisans alongside Makhno, who was murdered by the White Army after the Bolsheviks declared war on her and forced her underground.

The USSR: Force for Global Counterrevolution and Accomplice of Fascism

The outcome of other putatively communist states demonstrates that, while Lenin’s party was especially bloodthirsty, the problem was the model itself. Far from achieving communism through state power, each attempt at authoritarian communism managed to implant capitalism in a country where the bourgeoisie hadn’t been able to. China, today, is the largest capitalist market in the world and may soon be the leading capitalist economy on the planet, an evolution aided in large part thanks to the industrialization and bureaucratization carried out under Mao’s leadership. Vietnam is following the same path on a smaller scale. As for Cuba, in the first years of the revolution (after executing the anarcho-syndicalists and dissident socialists), Che and Fidel abandoned the plan of creating true communism in order to construct a sort of export colony with a more equitable distribution of resources (like a Costa Rica with a Swedish government). They maintained the island’s old role as a producer and exporter of sugar for the international market.

As the first of these capitalist revolutions, the USSR stands out for the harm it caused to anti-capitalist movements worldwide. It’s true that they supported many revolutionary movements, but always prioritizing their interests above the interests of the revolution itself. It’s a significant fact that most communist movements distanced themselves from the USSR the moment they no longer depended on Soviet aid, as was the case with China and in certain periods with Cuba. Soviet intervention in the Spanish Civil War demonstrates how badly Soviet “aid” could destroy a struggle.

The international policy of the Comintern can be divided into two phases. In the first phase, they aimed to export revolution, but only if they could monopolize it. Between 1919 and around 1926, Comintern agents were charged with imposing Bolshevik control over all worker and anti-colonial organizations. They did this with funding, “entryism” (implanting charismatic agents who climbed the ranks in a particular organization without revealing their affiliation with the Communist Party), attacks against non-Bolshevik currents, and other tactics. One preferred method was to organize apparently neutral international conferences, with fake delegates (they sometimes paid people to act as delegates from supposedly massive organizations that didn’t actually exist), a script and a choreography in order to approve decisions that had already been made.

In the case of organizations that refused to accept Communist domination, Comintern agents were dedicated to neutralizing them via false rumors, the provocation of internal conflicts, turning the authorities against them through snitching, and even murder. In this way they destroyed a number of workers’ movements.

In the second phase, representing the triumph of the line promoted by Stalin and Bukharin, the Communist Party abandoned the pretense of exporting revolution and adopted the watchword “Socialism in One Country.” Subsequently, all anticapitalist movements worldwide served only to protect the geopolitical interests of the Soviet Union.

In effect, there wasn’t that much difference between the two phases. Both of them resulted in failed insurrections and revolutions—in the first phase, because the Communists’ lack of solidarity and obsession with power obstructed revolutionary processes in other countries, and in the second, because the USSR continued encouraging unviable insurrections in other countries when it might weaken an enemy power.

For the first phase, we have the example of the Hamburg Uprising of 1923. Soviet leaders like Trotsky were pressuring the KPD—the German Communist Party, the strongest in the world outside of the USSR—to stage an insurrection, but the German leaders thought it was too early. Due to poor organization, the plan was initiated only in one district of Hamburg. The failed attempt unleashed a strong repression and worsened relations between Communists and Socialists in Germany.

There’s also the example of the failed revolution in Indonesia. In 1925, the Comintern ordered the Indonesian Communist Party to join with anti-colonial but not anti-capitalist forces (they imposed the same strategy in China and elsewhere). In 1926, the Communist unions were ordered to spark a revolution, but the plan was green and the coordination with other sectors of the united front failed. The repression claimed many lives.

Of the second phase, we have the example of the mutiny on the Dutch warship, Die Zeven Provinciën, provoked by a Communist cell, while the ship was sailing near the Indonesian colonies. The intention was to destabilize the colonial power. There is also the similar example of the mutiny and failed revolution in Chile in 1931.

A German Comintern agent described how his bosses ordered him to organize a dockworkers’ and sailors’ strike in the major German port cities like Bremen and Hamburg. Once all the port workers were on strike, the Comintern instructed trusted agents to scab, sabotaging the strike. Many workers who demonstrated solidarity lost their jobs, but the Comintern got their agents in key positions on many boats and ports, increasing the efficiency of their smuggling network (which they used to supply the USSR, transport agents, and smuggle materials to countries across the world). Maneuvers like that increased the cynicism of the German working class, cost the Communist Party a good deal of support, and gave more legitimacy to the Nazi argument that all the “reds” were agents of Moscow.

Nestor Makhno in 1930.

The German Communist Party aided the Nazi Party in much more direct ways, as well. Between 1928 and 1935—the critical era in the rise of the Nazi movement, when it grew from a small party into one capable of taking power—the Comintern, following Stalin’s directives, declared that social democracy was equal to fascism, but that communists had to ignore fascism in order to dedicate all their efforts to combating other left-wing currents. The KPD followed this line with enthusiasm. On many occasions, Communist militants joined with Nazi stormtroopers to smash up the events of Socialists.

It is true that the Socialists used state power wherever they were in the government to repress the Communists, just as the SRs in the Russian Revolution also maneuvered to try and gain power, just as leftist statists across the planet seek to dominate others. Because the state is a tool of domination and repression. But, on the one hand, collaboration with the Nazis represented an extreme of reprehensible practices, surpassing the dirty tricks used by the Socialists. And on the other hand, the currents that didn’t seek to conquer state power—anarchists and others—rejected such tactics.

In Prussia, the largest state in Germany, the Communists openly collaborated with the Nazis in 1931 to try to revoke the Socialist government. They said the Nazis were “working class comrades.” In 1933, the year the Nazis rose to power, the Communists effectively let them win. If they had joined forces with other left-wing forces, the Nazis would not have achieved a majority. But they were obsessed with destroying the Left in order to monopolize it, believing that they would rise to power after a Nazi government. Thälmann, leader of the KPD, coined the slogan, “After Hitler, it’s our turn!”

Contrary to the slogan denouncing “social fascism,” it wasn’t the Socialists who had much in common with the Nazis, but the Communists themselves. The Nazis’ racial ideology was an import from the US, as is widely known. But not so many people remember that the organizational model of the Nazi dictatorship came from the Soviet Union itself. In order to set up their Gestapo—the secret police charged with political repression and counterespionage—the Nazis studied the Cheka and the NKVD (successor to the Cheka established by Stalin). The Soviet secret police, which inherited many techniques from the tsarist Okhrana, were the most advanced in the world, with the possible exception of the British intelligence agencies. But these used techniques that were much too soft for Nazi needs. Many times, the Nazis arrested and tortured Soviet agents in order to learn how their counterespionage apparatus functioned, with the purpose of copying the model.

In 1935, when the KPD had been almost completely destroyed, suffering thousands of arrests and executions, the Comintern inaugurated their next strategy without ever accepting responsibility for the Nazis’ rise to power. The new strategy was the “Popular Front.” But this was just as disastrous for revolutionary movements.

The prime example would be the Soviet intervention in the Spanish Civil War. The USSR was slow to begin sending aid to the anti-fascist side. This was due in part to the fact that the Communist Party in Spain was tiny, even smaller than the Trotskyist POUM. They weren’t attentive to the fascist threat in Spain because they had few interests in Spain. Before sending aid, they wanted to make sure they could control the situation and profit from it in some way. To be precise, they didn’t give military aid to the Republic; rather, they sold it, appropriating the entirety of the Spanish gold reserves, the fourth largest in the world at the time. And to a large extent, they sabotaged the war efforts. For the Stalinists, the Spanish Civil War was an opportunity to destroy what was then the strongest anarchist movement in the world (they and the Japanese imperialists had already destroyed the movement in Korea), and also to liquidate dissident communist currents, above all the Trotskyists. Given that fascism had already arrived in Germany and Italy, Spain was an important refuge and a field of action for communists who had fled those countries.

For that reason, the NKVD—the Soviet secret police—began a feverish activity in Spain, liquidating thousands of Trotskyists, other dissident communists, and anarchists. Far from the romantic legends, the International Brigades were in large part a machine for attracting these dissidents and killing them in the most discreet context possible: on the battlefield. The Brigades were also used to repress peasant collectives in Aragón.

What’s more, the Communists directly sabotaged anarchist and Trotskyist militias with the purpose of reducing their influence and feeding their propaganda campaigns in favor of “militarization”: the imposition of elitist and counterrevolutionary hierarchies in one of the most important spheres of the social revolution. The obstruction and withholding of weapons carried out by all the forces on the Left were responsible for the militias getting bogged down on the Huesca and Teruel fronts. If those cities had been taken—a reasonable accomplishment given sufficient weapons—then Zaragoza probably also would have fallen to the antifascists, potentially turning the tide of the war. Dirty tricks and lack of solidarity on the part of the Communists also played a part in the fall of Mallorca, another decisive moment in the Republican defeat.

We can also add to the list the Communists’ arrest of Maroto, an effective guerrilla leader operating around Granada, and the Communists’ blocking of the anarchist proposals to launch a large scale guerrilla war in the fascists’ rear and to create an alliance with the anticolonial resistance in the Rif (Morocco), which would have undermined Franco’s most important base. The Communists rejected the first proposal because they knew they couldn’t control a guerrilla war and such a conflict would have given the anarchists an important advantage, and they blocked the second to avoid upsetting the French government, which also had interests in Northern Africa. In both cases, Communist interests were not defeating fascism nor carrying out the revolution, but maintaining power and sabotaging their adversaries.

After winning the counterrevolution and installing a leader who would be faithful to them, Negrín, in May 1937, the USSR no longer had significant interests in Spain. For that reason, starting in June 1937, they began drawing down their military assistance to the Republic. The tragic truth is that Stalin didn’t want the Republic to win the war. On the one hand, he didn’t want to trouble relations with France and Britain, who promoted a “non-intervention” policy designed to favor the fascists. And on the other hand, he wanted to prolong the conflict in order to convince Hitler of the need for a non-aggression pact.

The negotiations for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact began in April of 1939, just at the end of the Spanish Civil War. It was what Stalin needed to protect the USSR from a Nazi attack, and what Hitler needed to be able to attack France and avoid a two-front war. The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was an important prerequisite for World War II and another example of Nazi-Stalinist collaboration.

German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Stalin shake hands to celebrate the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact committing to peaceful coexistence between the USSR and Nazi Germany. It was Nazi Germany, not the USSR, that broke the pact in 1941.

The Relevance Today of the Communist Counterrevolution

Recovering this historical memory is important for a variety of reasons. To begin with, it is important to remember our dead, to carry them with us, and to cast down the thrones their murderers have built atop their graves—to stop honoring as heroes those who betrayed revolutions and served as executioner to the oppressed.

This is important because historical memory is our library of revolutionary lessons, the communal apprenticeship that brings us closer to freedom. And if we store falsified volumes within this library, histories of lies, victories that never occurred, we will repeat the same mistakes time after time. By turning the people and the parties who strangled revolutions into heroes, we preserve completely unrealistic ideas about what revolution is and how to achieve it. If we think the state could be—or has ever been—a tool of the people capable of defeating capitalism, we create the perfect recipe for defeat: a revolutionary movement in which it is impossible to distinguish between the naïve and enthusiastic and the opportunists who are trying to climb the rungs of power.

A worrisome pattern exists on the Left. They sell off the future of the revolution by signing deals with the devil. Time after time, the authoritarian Left obstructs revolutionary movements by implementing strategies that are predictable failures. The advantage of these strategies is that they permit those who use them to monopolize the struggle. If they win a partial victory, they impose their monopoly by capturing state institutions that can serve to buy out or repress all the other sectors of the struggle. And if they fail, by having created a spectacular struggle in which they are the tragic protagonists, they can turn everyone else into spectators watching a mediatized combat between two hierarchical poles.

Liberation must be carried out by the oppressed. Revolution, by definition, must be self-organized, and above all the popular classes need to maintain the autonomy of their struggles with respect to the institutions of power.

We hold close all the revolutionaries and fighters who sacrificed everything in the struggles that came before us. We spit on the memory of those who took advantage of those struggles to rise to power, and those who tried to impose their unquestionable truth on everyone else, obstructing the self-activity of the very class that, hypocritically, they pretended to liberate.

Long live the Revolution of 1917! Down with all dictators, representatives, and politicians!

Further Reading

Volín, The Unknown Revolution

Alexander Berkman, The Bolshevik Myth (diary 1920-1922)

Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia

Ngo Van, In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary

Erik Benítez Martínez, La traición de la hoz y el martillo

Augustí Guillamón, El terror estalinista en Barcelona 1938

Angel Pestaña, Seventy Days in Russia: What I Saw

James Guillaume, L’Internationale; documents et souvenirs (1864-1878)

Stepan Maximovich Petrichenko, The Truth about Kronstadt

Miguel Amorós, Los incontrolados de 1937 and José Pellicer, el anarquista íntegro

Bloodstained: One Hundred Years of Leninist Counterrevolution, ed. Friends of Aron Baron

Jan Valtín, Out of the Night

Categories: News

London Bookfair ‘won’t happen in 2018’

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 16:13

via Freedom News

Following a confrontation at this year’s London Anarchist Bookfair sparked by two people handing out anti-trans leaflets, and a subsequent online firestorm, the Bookfair organisers have released two statements on what happened, announcing they will not be holding one in 2018.

The decision ends a 34-year run for the event, which was the largest of its kind. The collective’s statement is reproduced below:

Statement on an open letter

A few days ago, someone sent us the following open letter. Initially we didn’t want to write a point by point response but feel it is necessary to reply to the accusations and the demands made of us.

For the record: the current Bookfair Collective will not be organising a Bookfair in 2018. Organising an annual event attended by over 2000 people is a huge amount of work – finding and negotiating with venue providers, organising the equipment needed, booking stalls and meetings, printing and distributing leaflets and programmes, as well as finding overseas speakers and the money to pay for them. Pretty much every year we receive some accusation of heinous behaviour and demands that we implement a list of externally formulated policies. We could look at this one and dismiss it as more of the same; ignore it, say the groups are not representative, if we leave it people will lose interest, etc. But at the same time we are aware that many groups who have been pressed to sign up for it have not and we do need to set out a response as much to them as to the signatories and others who have read it.

What hurts us most is we know a lot of you. A number of the signatories to the open letter are groups we know and have worked with over the years; sometimes many, many years. Yet not one of you has tried to contact us as individuals or as the Bookfair collective to ask our views before you signed the open letter, even though some people appear not to have read all of it before signing. We thought of many of you as friends. We were obviously wrong. We guess it’s easy to sign a statement. It’s a lot harder to actually talk to people and try to work things out. We are also tired of being told what to do. We are told to ban people. We are told have this or that policy. We are told this or that group can/can’t have stalls. We are told we shouldn’t have a certain venue. We are constantly told we get it wrong. However, no one has offered to join the Collective and help us make the Bookfair better or offered to take it on.

We find it sad that so many individuals and groups jumped in to sign an open letter that accused of us allowing events that “terrorised” trans people and did not grant “the bare minimum conditions for trans and gender-variant comrades to take part in the event”. We wonder if everyone signing the open letter really thinks that trans and gender-variant comrades felt intimidated coming to the Bookfair? From what we saw and have heard, many members of the trans community were quite happy to be there. Indeed some disagree with the open letter and have expressed unhappiness about the behaviour of the group of up to about 30 people who chose to demand their view set the agenda.

We have in the past been called fascists by many individuals, sometimes for as little as asking for a donation towards the event; more often for asking people not to bring in dogs (for the safety of children) or not to use cameras. We also got called fascists on Saturday by a number of people. It seriously concerns us how easy this terminology is thrown about in the anarchist milieu. Survivors of the Spanish Civil war, survivors of the death camps, political activists in Pinochet’s Chile, activists in parts of the world today and many others who have been at the blunt end of actual fascism are done a disservice by this indiscriminate use of the word. We feel that the Bookfair is not the place for tactics used on demos against fascist groups and cops. Some of us are traumatised enough by activism and look forward to enjoying an event where we can see friends and exchange ideas without the pressure of these actions.

We agree 100% with the part of the open letter that says “Calling out harmful behaviour is about holding each other to the commitment that we can do and be better.” However, we find it sits uncomfortably with a large group of people threatening one person and find it difficult to believe some of those who signed this statement don’t either.

Three years ago a group of people came to tell us they were about to kick out an undercover cop. The person accused was visibly shaken and scared as the group was about to physically eject them till someone realised they had “the wrong person”. People are unhappy that the Bookfair collective doesn’t have a safer spaces policy. But we have always questioned who these policies are for? Is it OK for a space to be safe for one group but not for others who have different views? AFem 2014 was an attempt to make an event similar to the Bookfair without cis-men and with a safer spaces policy. Having seen the result, does anyone wonder why the organisers of that event (many more than we are) didn’t feel they had the energy to do another one?

The statement claims “organisers have stepped in to defend and support those who use oppressive, violent and dehumanising language to perpetuate racist, colonial and patriarchal systems of oppression”. Do all of you feel comfortable signing these accusations against us, presented without examples or proof? Many of you have worked with us for years and happily speak to us about stall and meeting bookings year after year. Isn’t it disingenuous to come to an event or book a stall or meeting, and, in many cases, be very friendly with us when you know us to be racist, colonialist and patriarchal? Did you not think of challenging us over the years about this?

This brings us onto the demands. Despite your claim that you have “been progressively alienated over the years by the culture of the Bookfair”, not one of you has ever come and offered to either get involved or to take the event on. In 2013 or 2014 demands were made of us to implement a safer spaces policy and to ban certain individuals. These “demands” were sent to us just over a week before the Bookfair. We refused, as, given the timeframe, we had no time to discuss the lengthy demands and their serious implications. After the Bookfair we contacted the groups who had made these demands to discuss how we could work together and we set up a meeting, but were met with silence.

You ask that the date of the Bookfair doesn’t clash with the UFFC demo. Where possible we have always tried to avoid a clash. There have been years where we can’t get the venue any other weekend (a couple of times when we were at Queen Mary’s). We got kicked out of Queen Mary’s and Central St Martin’s because of the behaviour of some people. Shit happens – we move on. We put tweets out asking for people to help us find a new venue. A few friends suggested places but all were unsuitable for either access or space reasons.

The secondary school in Tottenham was ideal for everything we needed. However, the only Saturday the school could offer us clashed with the UFFC demo. We were not happy about this, but had to weigh it up against access requirements, space requirements, financial requirements and venues actually wanting the event in the first place. We have probably visited over 100 venues over the last 10 years to try to find suitable spaces. Maybe those making demands like this should be prepared to take some responsibility for finding a suitable venue? Otherwise one can only assume their brand of anarchism is getting others to do things so there is always someone else to blame.

By the way, we maintain a dialogue with UFFC. We put their demo on the Bookfair leaflet (of which we produce and distribute 20,000) and programme. We also promote their demo on social media and are happy for people to go to the demo rather than the Bookfair. Ironically on years the Bookfair hasn’t clashed with the UFFC demo, and most of us have gone, the numbers on the demo don’t increase, which says loads to us about “our” movement.

You state we should have “A clear statement outlining the politics the LABF is committed to, what kinds of behaviour and views are unacceptable and unwelcome at the Bookfair”. Have you looked at our website? There is a statement there. We suspect some of you signed the open letter without checking the website. We suspect others mean “we don’t like your statement”. If that’s the case, then be honest and say what you mean. Again, we feel not so much upset as frustrated about this.

Regarding points 4, 5 and 6: It really saddens us that comrades can sign up to these points without talking to us or thinking through and substantiating what they have signed up to. We will take them separately below.

Regarding “a commitment to incorporating anti-racist and decolonial struggle into the Bookfair”. Every year we actively approach groups and individuals to try and make the event more diverse. We pay fares and, when we can, put on nationwide tours for speakers. Have you forgotten Lorenzo and JoNina, the ex-Panthers? Have you forgotten Lindela from Abahlali baseMjondolo? Have you already forgotten Rebel Riot this year? This year we also tried really hard to get comrades from Kurdistan, Turkey, Tunisia, Venezuela (and in the past Gaza), to attend. Many of the non-white speakers at the Bookfair have been invited by the collective. Every year we also try to get local non-white groups to speak. Most don’t want to because the event, in common with the movement as a whole, is so “white”. Do you really think the Bookfair Collective alone is responsible for the current lack of diversity across the whole movement?

You say we should make space for workshops and meetings for people of colour or queer and trans (point 5) and people with disabilities (point 6). How are we not providing space? Anyone can contact us to suggest or book a meeting. Anyone can book a stall. We actively encouraged a trans rights group who had tried to book a stall last year, but contacted us too late, to book early this year, but they opted to do something else on the day. It’s interesting that because there wasn’t a meeting with “trans” or “queer” in the title some of you seem to think there were no trans speakers, implying that the only thing people of trans experience can talk about is their gender.

Regards the demands around accessibility in the open letter, again we ask how you can sign this statement without talking to us or looking at what’s been achieved over the years. We work with DPAC, we have signers on hand (3 this year) at the Bookfair to interpret for people at meetings and round stalls if needed. We have touch typists on hand for those who are hard of hearing. We spend ages finding venues that are accessible and we mean the whole venue. Yes, there are problems. Venues often don’t “get it” so we fight them on this. We had started to get there with the new venue. We had eight keys cut for the lifts, of which two were on the DPAC stall.

We ask people who want to attend meetings or films to let us know in advance so we can get meeting notes and further info in advance to make the meeting as accessible as possible (this is all on our social media and website). This year we offered to pay for cabs to and from the venue for anyone with mobility difficulties. We specifically have a Bookfair access stall, staffed by trained people (some of whom have disabilities themselves) to support this work. Are you claiming that all your venues, offices and events are as accessible?

Several of us were incredulous when we saw point 7. We find it hypocritical that some of those signing the open letter (and we accept it’s only one or two) have not only taken photos at a previous Bookfair but circulated them publicly. There were people in the “melee” on Saturday taking photos of the person being attacked as well as of us trying to defuse the situation and comments shouted at us included “your face will be all over social media by tomorrow”.

We think it’s time for everyone to take a moment to reflect on the event and the state of the anarchist movement in general, to think how we can move forward in a more positive way. However, we have decided not to organise another Bookfair in 2018. This is because we can’t agree to implement the list of demands in the open letter and don’t expect many of the groups and individuals who signed it, or made their own statements, to accept our response. We are sad to disappoint all those who, like us, value the Bookfair and the contribution it has made to the movement. We are sad that incidents that it may have been possible to resolve have been widened out and entrenched. Our decision reflects an increasingly toxic atmosphere, which we do not want to concede to or facilitate. We also have very serious concerns about organising a Bookfair knowing that we, those who wished to attend and the venue would face attempts at harassment and disruption.

To reiterate: We will not be organising the Bookfair in 2018. For all those who think we did such a terrible job, who feel we didn’t get it right for people of colour, trans people, disabled people and probably others as well, show us how to do it properly. The Bookfair in 2018 is yours. We won’t come along and make trouble; we won’t denounce you on social media; we won’t criticise from the sidelines. But we are really interested to see how you solve all the problems you raise in your statement and implement your list of demands.

Last but not least, thank you to all those who have sent messages of support and those of you who have at least called / emailed to question us about the events and our thoughts even if you don’t agree with us.

(Please note: While others may want to continue this discussion online. We won’t be making any further comments.)

Statement on the future of the Bookfair

There have been a number of demands that the London Anarchist Bookfair Collective put out a statement on the events at this year’s Bookfair. Since we started drafting one there have inevitably been a range of statements, open letters etc. Elsewhere we will set out where we think this leaves the Bookfair collective, the Bookfair and the wider movement. Here we will try and set out some sort of position on the events of the day. It’s probably useful to keep the two separate.

Before we start, we want people to remember there were a huge number of positive things about the day; it felt more diverse, there were a lot of people who had not been before, there were some excellent outward looking meetings, the Swiss comrades raised more than £700 for G20 defendants, the Rebel Riot tour went down a storm and they’ve secured help and funding to set up a social centre in Myanmar, a comrade who came over from Hong Kong is going back to set up a bookfair there, as is another from Bulgaria we hope, and there were some great books too! What people are expecting us to make a statement about are two incidents and some leaflets. Like many, many other groups we don’t all think the same but have tried to come to some consensus. From the demands being “made” of us we know we won’t satisfy everybody. In fact we may alienate a range of people, and we may have people who presently are trying not to take sides disagreeing with us as well. All we can say to everyone is these are our thoughts.

There were some leaflets being handed out against the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act

We are all unhappy about the contents of the leaflets we have seen. One is clearly meant only to provoke, the other fails to even acknowledge the real fears and discrimination that many trans people face in everyday life and, by failing to do so, itself becomes provocative and therefore offensive. We had not seen the leaflets before the problems started and most of us did not get to see the contents until the end of the day. As anarchists we feel “banning” and “no platforming” are actions that should only be used as extreme solutions and, while the leaflet did cause offense and hurt, we will only remove literature or people from the Bookfair in extreme circumstances and not just because we disagree with it or them, even if they do cause offence.

As the Bookfair collective we have been working most of our lives to oppose oppression and we see worrying tendencies on both sides of this debate to ban, oppress and win the argument by force. We know people who feel strongly about this; who feel deeply hurt; and who feel angry. We see the contradictions, we see the splitting of our movement, and we see and feel the pain caused. Unfortunately we don’t have the answers but we are prepared to be part of any group that wants to look for a less oppressive way to deal with this debate within our movement.

We are also aware that views and attitudes vary widely. People who disagree strongly with the leaflets’ contents do not all think it’s useful to call the people distributing them fascists, or that anyone failing to condemn them should be attacked. People in our movement have a range of different views about gender, women’s spaces and so on. People who step in to stop a woman being mobbed don’t necessarily share her views or even claim understanding of all the issues. No one voice speaks for everyone on either side.

The jumping to confrontation, the retreat into “No debate” only hardens positions, poisons political and personal relationships and makes the possibility of any sort of resolution less possible. We don’t see any winners emerging out of this toxicity.

The fracas

Let’s get one thing straight. We did not step in to support people promoting transphobic hate speech. We saw two women (who had been handing out leaflets) being attacked by a group of people and separated them from the group. A member of the collective was hit by the people handing out the leaflets while trying to move them away from the stalls and lifts. The two women left the venue. The woman who was later mobbed by up to about 30 people did not hand out the leaflets or have anything to do with their production or distribution – she simply said that they had the right to distribute them. For expressing this view, she was mobbed by a crowd of people some of whom, had we not stepped in, appeared bent on physically attacking her. We and other stall holders stepped in to prevent this from happening. If any individual within our movement is threatened with physical assault at the Bookfair we always try to do what we can to protect that person, and have done so (sadly too often) at previous Bookfairs over a number of different strongly felt issues, regardless of whether we personally share their views.

We have been accused of “protecting a fascist” and of being transphobic ourselves. All of us in the collective have physically confronted fascists on the streets, at meetings and in print, and we are baffled and upset by these accusations. Accusing a person of being a fascist because you don’t like their views is dishonest and dangerous. We are not going to apologise for protecting someone being mobbed by a group of up to about 30 people, and, along with others, preventing an ugly situation from deteriorating further.

Obviously a lot of people are going to disagree with this, but anyone who seriously thinks that up to about 30 people shouting and threatening one woman, and in the process intimidating disabled comrades and children, was a “beautiful moment of direct action” should consider taking a look at themselves and their politics.

Finally to those who decided to smash and set off the fire alarm, and to anyone who thought it was clever – have you thought about the effect it had on the creche and older kids space, the numerous meetings taking place at the time, or relations with the venue? A number of children having to be led out of the older kids space were crying and talking about Grenfell. They thought it was a real fire and were really scared. This action definitely didn’t make it a safe space for them.

The end

We are unsure how this debate within our movement (and beyond) will work itself out, as there is a wide range of strongly held views. What we are sure of is that next year there are people who would want us to ban those sharing the views of the leafleteers or those who stickered the loos, others who would want us to ban people who were in the group of up to about 30 or those who set off the fire alarm. We are not prepared to ban any of these people, and, while people think the way to resolve their differences is to disrupt and shut down meetings, like the Syria meeting last year, or the whole Bookfair this year, by shouting at and fighting each other, we haven’t the appetite or the energy to organise next year’s Bookfair.

More positively and perhaps unsurprisingly we have had contacts from a range of people who do see the need for debate and discussion on the issues and the events. We don’t think our collective is the right facilitator but are prepared to work with anyone who, like us, would like to look at ways we work these (strongly felt) disagreements within our movement out face to face. If we don’t, the only winners will be capitalism and the state.

(Please note: While others may want to continue this discussion online. We won’t be making any further comments.)

Tags: london anarchist bookfaircategory: Essays
Categories: News

The Hotwire #12: November 8, 2017

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 14:01

From CrimethInc.

White masculine mass shooting in Texas, down with daylight saving, J20 updates

The Hotwire

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Summary

This week we have a greater amount of animal liberation actions to report on than usual. We interview Sam from DC Legal Posse about the first J20 trials beginning next week, and what people can do to support the defendants. After the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday, we explore whether it makes sense to designate white men as the “real terrorists.” We also interview an anarchist in Brazil about the Operation Érebo repression campaign against anarchists there. Anarchists from throughout history travel forward in time to warn us about the horrors of state socialism and about the dangers of standardized time itself!

Notes and Links

Tags: Crimethinc.the hot wirepodcastcategory: Projects
Categories: News

Anarchism through the Silver Screen

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:51

From CrimethInc.

Why Are Anarchists Suddenly Showing up in so many Korean Films?

This year, several major films from South Korea depict rebels or outright anarchists. Okja portrays the Animal Liberation Front; Anarchist from Colony tells the story of Park Yeol and Fumiko Kaneko, two anarchist nihilists who have become national heroes in Korea; A Taxi Driver dramatizes the Gwanju uprising of 1980. Why are anarchists suddenly appearing in Korean cinema? What’s the context behind these films? And how can they inform how we frame our own narratives in a time of resurgent nationalism and unrest?

South Korea, 2017. The new year arrived with a surge of demonstrations expressing disgust at the state of the nation. “Is this a/our country?” went a popular slogan. The state apparatus played for time by starting the impeachment process. Aspiring politicians worked hard to frame the events as a “democratic revolution” (what an oxymoron!) and the massive demonstrations were pacified, accepting the authority of the police and the ordinary violence of daily life under this system. Then, pro-regime reactionaries gained momentum fighting with the police in the name of law and order and patriotism. Nevertheless, perhaps fearing that the ruling order was becoming too unstable, the court announced the impeachment of the president, who is now facing charges. Elections took place, raising a new government to power.

Things are back to normal, it seems. However, the theater screens have been filled with more revolt than usual. Indeed, this summer, at the theater in my small Korean town, among the few movies presented, I could watch back-to-back two Korean movies featuring anarchists in the spotlight, preceded by a preview for yet another movie about the Gwangju uprising.

What’s going on? This is out of the ordinary. It probably reflects something happening in the popular consciousness on some level, but I see no anarchist surge in the streets. What do we do when anarchism is more visible on the screens than in the streets, when it is recuperated by production companies with budgets that dwarf our scant resources? To begin to answer these difficult questions, though I am hardly an expert on Korean cinema, I’ll try to situate these recent movies in context to see what they reveal about how anarchism is perceived here today. As anarchism and nationalism have historically been closely intertwined in Korea, this also brings me to discuss nation as narration.



Okja

Okja portrays the relationship between a young Korean and a pig, which is interrupted by a multinational corporation and one of its enemies, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Over a decade ago, the same director released The Host, (2006), which explored the themes of state negligence and deception and of rebellion through direct action. It was followed in 2014 by a large-scale international production, Snowpiercer, that depicts a rebellion in a futuristic dystopian class society. Okja is a continuation on these themes of rebellion—and also the result of expanding Korean international cultural production.

The relationship between the ALF and anarchism is not explicit in the movie, but the depiction of the ALF, though somewhat contradictory, points in an anarchist direction. The movie shows sympathy for a group engaged in anonymous illegal direct action and emphasizes how this could spread in a decentralized way. It’s refreshing and funny to see a young Korean employee turn his precarious conditions against his boss when he refuses to chase the ALF truck, pointing out that, unlike his boss, he has no insurance benefits—and thus no reason to endanger himself for the sake of “his” company. As revealed in the last scene (hidden after the credits), he eventually joins the ALF. This scene depicts the spreading of rebellion: as the activists put on their black masks, a bystander who is initially shocked to realize she is surrounded by them is then comforted by being offered a mask too.

However, the viewers might get a contradictory impression of the ALF as a standard hierarchical membership organization in the scene where someone from the group (“the leader”) authoritatively expels another and claims ownership of the ALF name. We never see another cell of the ALF throughout the movie, either. The question of how to preserve “our” integrity (at different levels ranging from affinity groups to leaderless decentralized movements) is already a complex one and this movie might confuse it more for people, making ALF activists appear strict and purist. We also see activists struggling over questions of dietary choice, non-violence, and consent.

The ALF is portrayed as a crew of friendly, silly, utopian youth from the West. Though they include a Korean-American (who makes mistakes due to misadjustment to both cultures), the rest of them are all white Westerners operating in English without apparent ties in Korea. The movie makes translation into an important theme. The plot revolves around a mistranslation but this event is also followed immediately by a deliberate mistranslation in the subtitles (something that can only be noticed by someone speaking both languages). The English subtitle for the spoken Korean “My name is Koo Soon-Bum” is “How is my Korean? Learn English, Mija. It opens new doors.” The ALF leader that kicks his Korean-American comrade out of the organization because of his deceiving translation does so saying “Translation is sacred.” Later, the translator makes a return with a tattoo on his arm saying “Translations are sacred.”



In Okja as in other recent movies, we are presented with anarchism lite: the anarchists fight creatively against the authorities to create a better world, yet in the end the chief object of their “direct” action is to reveal some evil to the public eye. The ALF is not shown directly incapacitating corporations, only attacking their image. The corporation’s leadership is shown in a conflict about the management of their image. In the end, the boss who is concerned about presenting a greenwashed and multicultural façade is replaced by her sister, who rejects this approach in favor of the “traditional” corporate approach to profiting through brute force.

A Taxi Driver

This movie is set during the Gwangju Uprising of May 1980, a weeks-long insurrection that chased the authorities out of the South Korean city of Gwangju and created a commune that has inspired resistance throughout the dark years since.

I would like to explore an idea with you, dear comrades. For me, it can be strategically useful to make a distinction between a “nation” (i.e., a people, a tribe, a group) on one hand and nationalism and statism on the other. What if we understood a nation basically as a collective identity built upon a narrative—in other words, as a story?



This storytelling involves crucial historical or mythical events. It is a complex process, with different voices and different versions of the story competing with and responding to each other. It is constantly reproduced, challenged, and modified by a variety of forces. The forces that compete to build and control the state and dominate society (or, for that matter, the whole world through capitalism) try to shape this narrative in a way that is advantageous to them. Perhaps we anarchists also aim at building some kind of collective power and for that purpose need some form of identity—not centralized but nevertheless somehow consistent? If so, we might intervene better on this terrain if we consider which events are emphasized and which are ignored, by whom, and how.

With this objective in mind, let us look at A Taxi Driver and this year’s other major film about rebellion, Anarchist from Colony.



The events of May 1980 in Gwangju appear of crucial importance if we are to resonate with people here in Korea. After being censored for a decade by the authorities, these events were re-presented by the democratic “opposition” that got into office at the end of the 1990s. When the “conservatives” got back into government, they kept commemorating the events but in a toned down way. On May 18, 2017, with the new government “born of the candlelight revolution,” the commemoration resumed its previous scale and tone. Which politician does or does not sing along with the uprising’s “anthem” became the focus of attention.

The “anthem” of the Gwanju uprising, written for the posthumous wedding of Yoon Sang-won and Park Ki-soon, who were murdered by the state in the course of the struggle. You can find a performance of the song in English here.


Other movies have made these events their setting, including May 18/Magnificient Vacation and A Petal. Both share a kind of narration that focuses on individuals involved in a drama. A Taxi Driver is based on the real experience of an actual taxi driver who accidentally got involved in the course of driving a foreign journalist around—note again how much importance is given to the Western media gaze.

What seems to be missing in these movies (which I haven’t seen) is a view of the commune born through these events, a glimpse at how people self-organized and strategized. What seems to be needed is a way to compellingly tell a story, going beyond documentary and fiction, that makes things personal yet not in the usual atomized and static sense. Of course, different movies can serve different purposes—some to remember, some to analyze, some focusing on a micro-level, some on a macro-level.

Anarchist from Colony

This movie is set during the period that comprises the foundation of the nation building narrative for the Korean state, not to mention a whole Korean historical movie genre: the era of Japanese colonialism that began at the opening of the 20th century and lasted until the end of the World War II. This period has served this function since the establishment of the current Korean state—but I’d be curious to know how the role of anarchists in this narrative has changed over the years.

Anarchists have played an important role in the narrative for some time now. Over a decade ago, a movie entitled Anarchists was released, depicting anarchist resistance in the aforementioned era. Anarchist ideas hardly appeared in that action movie, except in the form of assassination attempts against the colonial authorities. However, in the last few years, several successful movies have appeared depicting resistance at that time, involving a variety of protagonists of diverse visions, genders, and ethnicities, including anarchist characters: Assassination, The Age of Shadows, and Dongju, to name three examples. The first two are action and spy thrillers, whereas the last one, Dongju, by the same director as Anarchist from Colony, deals with the more complex themes of individualism, art, and resistance.



Both the North Korean and South Korean states compete to present themselves as the heirs of the resistance (i.e., independence) movement under Japanese colonialism and the reincarnation of the Korean nation in a modern democratic form. In this regard, one could say that the South Korean state occupies a disadvantageous position compared to the North Korean regime, in that South Korea is in an indirect military alliance with Japan (through the USA) against North Korea.

There are contradictory tensions within the public over this subject. On one hand, there’s widespread support for military defense against North Korea; on the other hand, the close alliance with the USA and Japan is very controversial. Lately, as is common regarding small, uninhabited islands in the seas bordering the east coast of Asia, there is a territorial dispute, in this case between Korea and Japan. The South Korean state boasts of taking a hard line to defend Korean territory and there is a citizens’ movement about taking pride in these islands, that could also be seen as nothing more than big rocks. There has been a widespread discontent about the lenient way that the most recent governments have dealt with contentious issues with Japan regarding historical recognition and reparations related to sex trade during colonial times.



In Japan too, an extreme-right (some say fascist) government has recently returned to power, accompanied by a xenophobic movement. There are many ethnic Koreans and Chinese living in Japan with a complex and changing citizenship status.1

State relations between China and Japan are also worsening, as are relations between South Korea and China. (Indeed, even North Korea may be on worsening terms with China.) Although the two countries share geographic proximity and historic and economic ties, and a considerable number of Chinese immigrants live in South Korea, many (South) Koreans subjectively feel estranged from China, and hostility towards its government. Lately, a punk event has taken place in different countries including participants from across Asia (mainly from Japan, Taiwan, China, and South Korea), but it, too, was torn by conflicts having to do with gender, race, history, and subcultural politics. To me, all of this contrasts with what seems like a greater degree of internationalism in the resistance movements during the era portrayed in Anarchist From Colony.

A hundred years ago, anarchists in the entire Northeast Asia region—Korea, Japan, and China, including connections with Russia—played a major role in the resistance to Japanese colonialism. (For some background on nationalism and anarchism in Korea, read this earlier CrimethInc. report.) This presents a difficulty for any narrative about Korean state-building that seeks to conceal the role of anarchists in the events. Furthermore, in the South, where anti-communism has been of central importance to the state, anarchists’ clear opposition to state-communism makes them appealing to common people in general, but also as targets to be integrated into state-building narratives. Numerous anarchists are revered by the state and society in general, appearing in textbooks and public monuments as heroes and martyrs for the nation. Yeol Park and Fumiko Kaneko, the anarchist protagonists of Anarchist from Colony, are among them.

There are other reasons anarchists have been attractive to filmmakers lately, which can be both an advantage and an obstacle to the spread of anarchism. In contrast with the boredom of daily life under capitalism, movie anarchists often stand out for being active—but this activity is spectacular and aggressive in superficial ways (think guns and bombs). The action movie genre demands this: in a short time, the film must remove spectators from their daily lives and get their bodies pumping adrenaline. Unfortunately, this image could overshadow the diverse forms that anarchism can take in everyday life, especially the aspects involving attention, creativity, and care.

Refreshingly, in the movie Dongju, an anarchist freedom fighter encourages Dongju (criticized for his apolitical individualism) to “Keep on writing poems while I keep fighting with the gun.” A related problematic aspect of the recent notoriety of anarchists comes of them being fashionable, being exceptional yet somehow well-adjusted characters. This is something like conformist anti-conformism: in the movies, the anarchists are often savvy, sexy, and bold characters who also blend in and navigate perfectly well in cosmopolitan settings in their society. This is all well and good, but one must bear in mind how it relates to the marketing of “original” individual and global consumer identities and politics. Understanding it as an identity label with these narratives in mind, “anarchist” appears to many as a spectacular ideal far out of reach of ordinary mortals. Many good people I know will not identify themselves as anarchists because they feel unworthy of the title or consider it too exotic or ideological. Eschewing labels is fine, but when this means that they do not engage in outreach or organizing, either, it turns out that the movie version of the anarchist has served to inoculate the population against real-life anarchism.



At best, when they show anarchists’ contradictions and imperfections, some of these films might help some people understand that anarchists are people like themselves. For that reason, humor is a great tool and an important aspect of anarchy.

To cite an example of such contradictions, in Anarchist from Colony, we witness Yeol acting without pridefulness, calling himself a dog—yet later, in court, he insists on speaking Korean and, with Fumiko, on being dressed up like the king and queen of Korea. Bear in mind that these are self-professed nihilists. It is also funny because this costume is traditionally worn by common people only the day of their wedding. Their comrades joke that they turned their trial into their wedding.

When anarchists are represented in state-building narratives, their anarchism is toned down in favor of their nationalism, and this nationalism is used to foster a tacit approval of the reigning nation-state. This translation/deformation is possible because of confusion induced by the concept of nationalism (which has a very positive connotation in Korea). Nationalism can involve a stance against a specific ethnic oppression and an affinity among the oppressed toward collective liberation, but it also comes with an implicit assumption that this liberation will take the form of a new and democratic state. Indeed, many of the self-proclaimed Korean anarchists of the past, having never experienced democracy, seemed to be unclear about the issue, believing in some form of democracy. This is still very much a problem; the critique of democracy is necessary and timely here.

Nevertheless, of all the “Korean” anarchists I know, the story of Yeol Park and Kaneko Fumiko has the greatest potential to upset the standard nationalist narrative. First of all, at least in some of their writings, they made their nihilism explicit, rejecting all ideologies and nations. Secondly, they were part of a minority within the resistance. Although it has been argued that until the mid-1920s in East Asia, anarchism was the dominant current of socialism, later anarchists were violently attacked by authoritarians of all stripes and became isolated and forgotten. This pattern played out in many different parts of the world. Even among anarchists, the majority being of a more communist tendancy, Yeol and Fumiko’s individual and nihilist anarchism was a minority.

In the recent movies and especially in Anarchist from Colony, it is interesting to see these differences and conflicts within the resistance movement portrayed. In the movie, we see Yeol and his comrades demanding accountability and confronting another member of the independence movement. The latter, a person of greater social status, looks down upon them, demanding to know the name of their party. Yeol hesitates and asks his friend about their name. The friend says “Yesterday, our name was ‘Patriots’ but today we are the ‘Kick Your Ass Party.’” This response shows that they do not care about the name or the status of their organization. Indeed, they have used a great diversity of names for their organizations and publications. The name used in the movie refers just to the place, a kind of restaurant, where they hang out; it is a play on words recuperating an insult thrown at them.

The last and perhaps most important way that their story that can upset the standard nationalist narrative is their obvious internationalism. Yeol was ethnically Korean, but he lived in Japan, struggling alongside Japanese comrades. Fumiko, even though she was raised in Korea, was not an ethnic Korean. Many, including Fumiko’s lawyer, have tried to paint her as a virtuous women that sacrificed herself for her husband and his nation. Anyone who honestly undertakes to learn about her will see just the opposite: she lived to the fullest for no one other than herself. She can certainly upset the narrative of the submissive and passive women. See Treacherous Women from Imperial Japan; Patriarchal Fictions, Patricidal Fantasies.

Though the Korean movie title for Anarchist from Colony is “Yeol Park,” the name of her male comrade, this is likely a trick. Many have argued that the movie makes Fumiko into the main protagonist. At least, the actress attracted much attention by performing very well. Contrary to my expectations, based on reading her writings, of Fumiko as extremely angry and serious, the actress brought out a contrasting lightness in her character. The words spoken in the court scenes are for the most part the exact words that were used by Yeol and Fumiko. Indeed, by going through with their trial, they made sure their words were recorded and diffused widely. At the time, their trial and their especially defiant stance generated much attention. Furthermore, Fumiko used her time in prison to write her memoirs, answering the question “what made me what I am?” Her writings (in English, The Prison Memoirs of a Japanese Woman) have been re-edited and she enjoys a renewed popularity with the recent release of the movie. Coinciding with the recent boom of feminism in Korea, Fumiko is a bomb, inspiring to many.



I liked that the movie brings out the rebellious, irreverent, and joyful side of anarchy. However, here again, it seems we end up with anarchism lite, liberal anarchism—though this may be an inescapable consequence of making a movie that focuses almost exclusively on a court case.

It is nice to see people ridiculing the justice system and using it in ways not expected by the authorities. For example, Park gains some important concessions by threatening to forgo his right to a trial and going on hunger strike, recognizing that the authorities need the trial to take place to legitimize their rule. By taking the offensive on a level not expected by the authorities, Yeol and Fumiko constantly destabilize their adversaries. However, ultimately, this strategy of using the courts to shed light on atrocities is limited and can easily be confused with liberalism—note, once again, the recurring theme of seeking the gaze of the media and the “international” community, which is to say, the Western community. We cannot see anarchism clearly through the lens of legal proceedings. The movie reminds of the recent movement to shed light on the “Seweol-ho” ferry incident, or the “9/11 Truth” movement alleging a cover-up in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. The truth is never simple or easy to reveal; nor would doing so necessarily lead to positive social change. Anarchists must communicate, yes, but our actions must not be limited to speech represented in institutions like the court and the media.

Shortly after her death sentence was transmuted to a life sentence, Fumiko Kaneko died in prison, officially from suicide. When she received the letter announcing the imperial pardon, she tore it up in anger, and made it clear to the authorities that she had no intention of letting anyone else determine her fate. She wrote to her judge that it was ridiculous to try to force a person to live when she does not wish to—that is to say, to serve a life sentence in prison. She believed that life in itself has no value except as a choice in front of death: that it is affirmed through its negation. Yeol may have agreed with her, but he made the opposite choice: despite learning of the suicide of his lover and comrade, despite there being no sign that either the regime or his imprisonment would ever come to an end, he survived more than 20 years in prison. His captors harassed him by telling him to live long and forgotten.

Yeol came out of jail when the Japanese empire collapsed. The movie ends without mention of his intriguing life after his release.2

In this movie, it seems Yeol represents the role of the memory keeper. This begs the question: remembering for whom and why? As we have seen, anarchists have sometimes been ignored and sometimes remembered, for good and for ill, portrayed negatively and now positively. Let’s not get distracted. Let’s remember for ourselves, in order to pursue our objectives, and take advantage of whatever opportunities the situation presents.

Now, imagine yourself part of a broad international anarchist movement. You are in the belly of the beast, at the center of an empire. At your sides are comrades from diverse origins, displaced people and immigrants. A catastrophic natural disaster takes place, unfolding into a social disaster. A massive social upheaval, something you and your comrades have plotted and waited for so long, seems just around the corner. However, to your surprise, the social upheaval is transformed into a mass movement of bigotry and fascism and genocidal acts are carried out around you. This genocidal mob is after you but so are the authorities, trying to find a scapegoat.

Sounds familiar? That is the kind of situation Yeol and Fumiko found themselves in a hundred years ago. Arguably, the anarchist movement was stronger then than it has ever been since, at least in East Asia. Now, after a slump of decades, it’s coming back. Of course, all of this depends on how you define anarchism, how you gauge strength and understand diversity and resilience. Nevertheless, it is also valuable to notice how movements ebb and flow and how history evolves as it repeats itself.

History is a hot topic these days here in Asia. The government that was toppled here in the spring had gambled on a project to revise the school history curriculum, a risky business sure to provoke a massive reaction and polarization. This was accompanied by a populist right-wing movement pushing for nationalization against a supposed “left-ideology-dominated monopolistic market of publishing companies.” Though apparently not as strong in Korea as in other parts of the world, fascists are regaining momentum by invoking the past. If we find ourselves facing the same situation as Yeol and Fumiko did, we have to take up the challenge and repeat history, better, double or nothing, once again.

Further Reading

Report from South Korea

Asia’s Unknown Uprisings, Vol. 1: South Korean Social. Movements in the 20th Century, George Katsiaficas

  1. The Japanese government has always been basically right-wing in terms of political ideology, while its economic policy was generally developmentalist and protectionist toward its industry and functioned to create a welfare state for its population. Since the 1980s, it has made a gradual turn toward neoliberalism; the rise of extreme-right wing politicians coincided with this trend. This genealogy culminates with Shinzo Abe. His first term as prime minister in was short lived due to scandals and health issues, but he came back in 2012, after the Democrat who took power in 2009 lost public confidence with a series of political mismanagements and missteps, the principal of which, in the public eye, was a wishy-washy stance toward the nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. Abe not only denies the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army but glorifies what they have done in Asia, making him an ultra-nationalist and revisionist. His rise to power coincided with a deluge of neo-racism originating on internet bulletin boards. In the few years since the mid-2000s, racists began to stage threatening street demonstrations targeting ethnic minorities and nationalities, especially Korean and Chinese people.

  2. I know from other sources that he wrote about the danger of the Cold War and the division of Korea. I do not know if he was still an anarchist then, when he supported the creation of the South Korean state and its right-wing anti-communist pro-USA leadership. When the Korean War broke out, he was supposedly abducted by North Korean forces and lived more than 20 more years in North Korea, of which we know almost nothing.

Tags: South KoreaCrimethinc.popular culturecinemareviewcategory: Essays
Categories: News

Nicholas Apoifis, Anarchy in Athens: An Ethnography of Militancy, Emotions and Violence

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 08:13

Review of
Nicholas Apoifis, Anarchy in Athens: An Ethnography of Militancy, Emotions and Violence (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017)

In his Ph.D. thesis Anarchy in Athens: An Ethnography of Militancy, Emotions and Violence, the Australian sociologist Nicholas Apoifis has taken on one of the hottest topics in recent anarchist history, namely the anarchist movement of the Greek capital.

Apoifis mentions that he originally wanted to conduct research in two more Greek cities, but that “because of the sheer scale of the movement in Athens, I limited my research to this explosive city” (p. 11). As far as the international perception of contemporary Greek anarchism is concerned, this makes little difference, as it focuses almost exclusively on what is happening in Athens anyway – in particular, in the Exarcheia neighborhood, which features prominently in Apoifis’s book.

In a sense, Anarchy in Athens turns three books into one: there is the academic discussion of social movement theory; there is the history of anarchism in Greece, starting with the 1860s; and there is the “militant ethnography” of Athens’s contemporary anarchist milieu, based on participatory observation and interviews conducted during two visits in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

In the introduction to the book, Apoifis admits that he struggled to bring these different parts together. Indeed, the book is not always easy to read, as both style and focus shift greatly. Personally, I might have preferred a stricter distinction between the chapters satisfying academic requirements, the historical accounts, and the personal reports from the ground, but these decisions are hard to make.

The methodological and sociological discussions will be of most interest to academics of relevant fields. The historical accounts will be appreciated by anyone who (apparently, unlike most of Athens’s contemporary anarchists) is interested in anarchist history. Most readers, however (including the ones visiting this site), will be primarily interested in the portrayal of the current anarchist milieu.

Apoifis has talked to many people, stayed in various squats, and participated in numerous protests. He has a solid background in anarchist theory, experience as an activist, and – as a “third-generation Greek-Australian” (p. 47) – a good command of the Greek language. These aspects combined form a solid ground for researching contemporary Greek anarchism.

Interestingly enough, the results of Apoifis’s research confirm common perceptions of the milieu: little interest in anarchist history and theory, strong insurrectional and anti-organizational tendencies, and plenty of street-fighting bravado. Apoifis makes sure to reference the “prefigurative politics” that the anarchists of Athens also engage in, including “feeding the hungry and poor, protecting migrants from fascist beatings and trying to carve out an autonomous political, social and cultural space”. Yet, he concedes that “militant protest … actions are … key elements in the ongoing construction and reconstruction of Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian collective identity” (p. 2).

This is not necessarily a problem. The collective identity formed in this way suffices (obviously) to create a subcultural space that many people experience as an escape from the daily grind; a space to experiment with social, political, and economic alternatives; and a space from where to strike against the powers of oppression. None of this can be taken from the anarchists of Athens, and Apoifis’s book convincingly illustrates why they attract dissatisfied locals, “anarcha-tourists”, and radical researches alike.

Yet, there is another side to the coin. With convictions bordering on a rejection of the political altogether (“I don’t care about publicity”, says one of the anarchist interviewed, p. 123), it is fair to ask what the subculture can do for the public at large. It might not be a coincidence that “the world’s most militant anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement” (p. 1) seemed unable to decidedly intervene “in the midst of a profound economic, social and political crisis” (p. 6). But it is exactly the ability to decidedly intervene in such a crisis that reveals a movement’s revolutionary potential.

In this context, the disinterest in anarchist history, which is a recurring theme in the description of the Athens anarchists, can indeed be problematic. Apoifis writes: “I had a very difficult time finding anarchists in the street-protests of Athens who had an in-depth knowledge of pre-World War II Greek anarchism. Initially, incorrectly and probably judgementally, I perceived this as a sad weakness of the movement – to be so out of touch with their rich and vibrant history.” (82) While such a perception might indeed be “judgemental”, I have not found anything in the book that would make it appear “incorrect”. Rather the opposite. If the form of anarchism that Apoifis describes is indeed “leading the way”, as one of his interviewees contends (p. 143), I’m afraid I can’t get terribly excited.

Finally, a unity based on “a shared commitment to a particular form of militant street resistance”, “the ritualised performative violence of the street-protest”, and “phenomena like rituals, encoded language, symbols and emotional interactions between movement actors” (p. 152) is nothing specifically progressive. The same can be said for football firms, motorcycle clubs, or medieval reenactment societies. This doesn’t mean to liken these groups to the anarchists of Athens. But it seems important to stress that the ways in which collective identities form don’t say much about the political values and principles involved. I feel that Apoifis could have explored this in more depth. What makes certain forms of collective identify based on the mentioned practices progressive and others not?

Readers should not be discouraged by my reservations. Anarchy in Athens is an important book about a recent expression of anarchism that we should all be aware of and study. Highly recommended.

Gabriel Kuhn
(June 2017)

Tags: Insurrectionary AnarchismGreecebooksreviewcategory: Essays
Categories: News

To a Trodden Pansy: Remembering Louis Lingg

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 18:56

From Plain Words

Louis Lingg was born on September 9, 1864 in Mannheim, Germany. Early in his life, he began working as a carpenter, eventually involving himself in revolutionary struggles. His politicization compelled him to evade military service, so he fled Germany for Switzerland, only to be expelled in 1885. That summer, Lingg immigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago, one of the epicenters of the vibrant German-American anarchist movement.

On May 3, 1886, police attacked a strike at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant, killing two workers. The following day, during a rally against this brutal repression, police attacked demonstrators. In the melee that followed, an unidentified person threw a bomb into the crowd of police, killing seven of them and injuring many others. At least four other people were killed in the ensuing firefight between police and demonstrators.

In response, police, with little evidence, began rounding up anarchists who they claimed played a part in the bombing. Eight prominent anarchists – among them organizers, orators, and editors of popular anarchist newspapers – were sought by police: August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Adolph Fischer, Albert Parsons, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Oscar Neebe, and Louis Lingg. Initially evading capture, Lingg was discovered in hiding on May 14. Not one for willing submission to the state, Lingg fought the two police who tried to arrest him – first with a gun, then with fists.

While Lingg was not present at the Haymarket the day of the bombing, the state’s dogs claimed he was involved in making the bomb. Though no evidence links him to the bomb thrower – whose identity remains a mystery to this day – Lingg was a prolific producer of bombs and an intransigent enemy of authority. In a search of Lingg’s apartment, investigators discovered two spherical and four pipe bombs.

After a notoriously prejudiced trial, the judge sentenced seven of the Haymarket defendants to death by hanging and Oscar Neebe to 15 years in prison. At his sentencing, Lingg remained defiant, proclaiming “I die happy on the gallows, so confident am I that the hundreds and thousands to whom I have spoken will remember my words. When you shall have hanged us, then they will do the bombthrowing! In this hope do I say to you, I despise you, I despise your order, your laws, your force propped authority. Hang me for it.”

On November 10, 1887, the day before their execution date, the Governor of Illinois commuted Samuel Fielden’s and Michael Schwab’s sentences to life in prison (Fielden, Schwab, and Neebe would all be released six years later after being pardoned by Governor John Altgeld). Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel, and Adolph Fischer were murdered by the state on November 11, 1887.

Louis Lingg chose a different response to his impending execution. Days after four bombs were discovered in his cell, Lingg placed a lit blasting cap in his mouth, blowing off his lower jaw. Before the guards could enter his cell, he scrawled “Hoch die anarchie!” (“Hurrah for anarchy!”) on the prison cell stones in his own blood. Lingg died six hours later, refusing with his own suicide state authority’s control over his life.

For more information on Louis Lingg and the Haymarket, read Paul Avrich’s exhaustive and engaging book The Haymarket Tragedy.

***

To honor Louis Lingg’s rebellious life, we present an unpublished poem he wrote in 1886, discovered in the Labadie Collection.

TO A TRODDEN PANSY
A broken stem, a pansy blossom crushed
In dirt, yet naught in all of Nature’s store
Revels in scorn at what we all deplore
In it. Wert thou where careless footsteps rushed?
‘Neath wanton lust wert thy fair petals brushed
E’en when thou smiled thy loveliest, before
Dark destiny had rolled its shadow o’er,
Ere yet thy innocence for cause had blushed?
Canst we read naught not writ in Custom’s scroll?
Living and human, cast in a finer mold,
E’en while we mouthing boast a ‘deathless soul,’
Yet still more wise than Nature, far more bold—
Regarding what in Nature is no loss
E’en while Hope’s brightest mintage we call dross!

Tags: haymarketanarchist historypoetrycategory: Essays
Categories: News

Germany / Greece: Message from Rigaer Street Comrades in Berlin to the Insurrection Festival in Athens

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 16:02

via Insurrection News

Received on 09.11.17:

Greetings from Berlin to Athens

We, individuals and groups from the Rigaer Street, welcome the initiative, to start a discussion about an insurrection and fill it with experiences from the past, current theories and practical possibilities. This is how we understood the call for the Insurrection Festival in Athens.

In the program, we discovered several aspects, that we in the Nordkiez of Friedrichshain are engaged in. There is no anarchist, anti authoritarian or left radical movement in Berlin, there is just a scene. The dullness of the majority of a fascist society, makes it complicated to get moving. In order to destroy overall power structures, we need to search for the confrontation in our local communities. A concentration of people, ideas and structures working against the state, are necessary to be able to protect oneself from outside aggression and be able to actually develop.

Over the last couple of years, because of the intensity of our actions and the repression of the cops, this process has been started in the Rigaer street. Our actions do not simply concentrate on material violence, they are trying to destroy the social norm and values. In that sense, to change the meaning of property, safety and fear, as well as work and competition.
In Berlin it is forbidden to organise a free market, where everything can be given away for free, it is forbidden to play music in public spaces or just gather in the street with many people. It might be allowed if one requests permission from the police. We did all of these things without having any permission and every time we did, the police came and attacked us. As a response, many stones were thrown towards the cops and their cars.
Maybe the Police Occupation in Exarcheia is more violent, but in Friedrichshain they are more close – the occupation force is waiting in front of your door.

Another way of preventive counterinsurgency in Berlin is, next to repression, the integration. By using various politicians and ‘good’ cops, the administrations are always coming up with round tables. The idea is to bring inhabitants from the Friedrichshainer Nordkiez together with representatives from the administration offices, so an image could be created in which the politicians listen to the concerns of the public and all parties involved come up with a solution together. This way there is no need for real resistance anymore, and ‘social peace’ can be restored. We must fight the integration like we fight the repression.

Due to gentrification, the population in our part of the city, is being slowly replaced. If you don‘t have the money, you can‘t pay the rent anymore and you have to move. This is why many luxury cars and new investors are being attacked in our neighbourhoods. Controversial questions within our circles are for example the relationship to the neighbours. Some people are sympathetic with us and hate the cops. But how do we interact with those who do not want to have any position in this conflict or who just want to keep on living their capitalist life without any disturbances?

We are only a few in this city, very few. When the state attacks us, like last year, when the cops raided the Rigaer 94 twice and once occupied the house for over three weeks, while destroying large parts of it, it became possible for us to mobilise many people from outside our circles. For weeks over the summer 2016, cars all over the city were burning and during a bigger demonstration many people attacked the cops. But an insurrection cannot be planned, it arises from social tensions, where radical tendencies are integrated in a larger social resistance. Another question would be if we should look for people in this individualised and estranged society or if it would be better just to put a utopia out there, that speaks for itself ?

On the 16th of June this year, a utopia was a hip hop concert in the streets. As expected the cops soon attacked and it lead to riots, which would only be worth a little note in Athens, but became a headline story in Berlin. Press and politicians compared the Rigaer street with the war in Syria. Should we escalate the situation even more, even though we are few people?

The autonomous movement was fueled in the 80s by the difficult housing situation and the many squats, that existed all over the city. The experiences since then, show us that as soon as we take one step backwards the enemy moves up right behind us. In the cases, where squatters negotiated with the state, they always lost. In the cases, where we did not negotiate, we may have also lost, but by fighting the struggle we won new activists for our structures.

As a realistic point of departure, we are trying to make one part of the city impossible to control, a process which should be expanded chronologically and spatially. Maybe the cops will attack our spaces in Friedrichshain again in the near future. Then we will ask you for help, by attacking authority, no matter where you are. Just like we in Berlin are trying to react to the state organised operations against the resistance in Athens and elsewhere.

Comrades and Friends of Rigaer 94 and the Resistance in Friedrichshain

* the police use the label ‘Danger Zone’ for a kind of martial law which allows them to stop-and-search people without reason and break into homes without search warrants and confiscate everything.

Tags: insurrectionRigaer 94Berlininsurrection festivalFriedrichshaincategory: Essays
Categories: News

Anarchy Radio 11-07-2017

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 18:19

Listen Here

Latest shooting massacre(s). "Lucky." Paucity of actual discourse in society. Homelessness crises, 8 million tons of plastics dumped in seas annually, climate refugees on tap big-time. "Bushman Banter," tech/media firms merging, enormous recalls. Alt-Right failing, virtual treadmills: no movement necessary. Action news, two calls.

Tags: KZKarlanarchy radiocategory: Projects
Categories: News

Moscow, Russia: Illegal Anarchist Demo for the Centenary of the Revolution

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 16:16

via insurrection news

Despite the police reinforcements in the centre of the capital, on a cold November evening (06.11.17), several dozen anarchists marched on the centenary of the revolution. Near Chistye Prudy metro station, the anarchists unfurled a banner that read: ‘Dictatorship, Poverty and Corruption, Only One Way Out – Revolution!’, and briskly marched through the dark streets yelling out slogans calling for class struggle, solidarity, social revolution and the construction of a new, just world.

The action was not permitted – we do not consider it necessary to ask the authorities for permission to march in the street. We can walk and breathe more freely without the accompaniment of a police convoy. Also, in the current conditions of the dictatorship, people are encouraged to participate in actions coordinated by the authorities, where all participants will be recorded and monitored by the police – stupidity and provocation.

Remember, the real social revolution of liberation which the anarchists and revolutionaries of the past dreamed of is not left in the past, but is waiting in the future. Revolution is the only solution to solve all the contradictions and problems that the capitalist system generates. The struggle against individual manifestations of capitalism and the state such as poverty, corruption, police lawlessness and the arbitrariness of the authorities have no prospects unless we take into account the true source of social ills – the state and capitalism. Otherwise, when trying to solve social contradictions by changing government without destroying the state and creating a new democratic system, new thieves and dictators will simply replace the old ones – which is proven by the experiences of the two revolutions of 1917. And of course this needs to be taken into account in the future.

(source, translated by Insurrection News)




(more images in source article)

Tags: Russia1917category: Actions
Categories: News

forthcoming: ep001: AnthropObscene podcast ft. John Zerzan @ extinction.global

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 06:56

https://soundcloud.com/fpoole/ep001-clip" title="extinction.global on SoundCloud with John Zerzan"

AB: And that's why ONTOLOGY is where I begin, because we make decisions based on what we think is real and how we think it operates.

JZ: Yeah, the matter of inertia and what's respectable and accepted.

AB: Mhm!

JZ: They look around, then they go, "well, I never heard anyone else say that," so there you are.

AB: That is consensus reality, and so my thing that I also discussed with you over the email was that consensus reality is something that I'd like to affect. If we want to make changes at the scale that is going to be necessary to mitigate the ongoing ruin--because that's _all_ we're going to *do,* is maybe
_slow_ the bleeding, because we're not going to *stop* it--but, if we can do that, it's going to start with people becoming aware that that's what we're doing. [laughs]

AB: Because right now, EVERYBODY'S THINKING IN THIS MODEL OF THE UNIVERSE WHERE "I EXIST TO MAKE RENT." Well if THAT'S how it works, we're gonna RUN IT RIGHT INTO THE GROUND LIKE WE'VE ALREADY BEEN DOING.

JZ: YEAH, IT'S NOT GONNA CHANGE.

AB: EXACTLY. So we have to PRIORITIZE. If we're going to live in an economy of scarcity,…

ep001 forthcoming…

Tags: john zerzanzerzanontologymodelsanti-civAnthropologyanthropoceneAnthropObscenepooleAlex Bradleyextinction.globalmass extinctionEcocidepodcastcategory: Projects
Categories: News

Red and Black October: An Anarchist Perspective on the Russian Revolution for its 100th Anniversary

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 00:30

From Black Rose Anarchist Federation

A hundred years to the day that the Winter Palace fell in Petrograd—October 25 in the Julian calendar, November 7 in the Gregorian—we present an anarchist perspective on the Russian Revolution, which began in February 1917 with a mass-mobilization and mutiny that deposed Tsar Nicholas II. Though the Revolution contained an awesome amount of liberatory potential, as reflected in workers’ self-management and peasant land-seizures, it was fatally deviated by the authoritarian Bolshevik Party, which took power a hundred years ago today. Now, Russia has gone a century without a revolution. The world awaits a new one!

Table of Contents

  • What precipitated the crisis and revolutionary events of 1917?
  • What helped propel the Revolution?
  • What was the anarchist role in the Revolution?
  • How did the events beginning in 1917 present two opposing conceptions of social revolution?
  • How did the Revolution go wrong?
  • What was the role of the Bolshevik Party?
  • What was the Red Terror?
  • What was the Russian Civil War?
  • What about the imperialists?
  • What happened in Ukraine?
  • Were Makhno and his followers anti-Semitic?
  • What happened at Kronstadt in 1921?
  • How did Lenin contradict his supposed anti-imperialist principles while in power?
  • How did Red October, the Red Terror, and the Civil War lead to Stalin’s rule?
  • What lessons should we take from the Revolution?
  • Works Cited
  • Statements/Memoirs

A map of western Russia and Eastern Europe using current borders indicating important cities and sites for the Revolution. The black star corresponds to Kronstadt.

What precipitated the crisis and revolutionary events of 1917?

Two factors were decisive in the emergence of the Russian Revolution of 1917: the Tsar’s forcible participation in the ongoing First World War, and widespread economic crisis, including near-famine conditions for urban workers. The disorganization of economic life during the war led to critical shortages for both the cities and the Army, thus making the continuation of the war-effort quite impossible. It was in the cities that the Revolution began in early 1917, spreading to the war-front by summer, provoking mass-desertions by conscripted soldiers who had experienced the utter pointlessness of the war firsthand. In fact, the Russian Revolution can in some ways be considered one of the greatest popular anti-militarist uprisings in history.

In February 1917 (March by the Gregorian calendar), starving masses rose up in Petrograd (previously and subsequently again known as St. Petersburg). On the first day of demonstrations, February 24 (Julian calendar), soldiers—perhaps in part with Bloody Sunday in mind—refused to fire on the striking workers and starving women, and the Petrograd garrison increasingly mutinied against the Tsar. Even the Imperial Guards turned on the tsarist police. The regiments in mutiny soon defeated all remaining tsarist forces in the capital, and railway workers defended the revolutionary city by refusing to transport loyalist forces to Petrograd. Finally acknowledging the reality of the situation, Nicholas II abdicated on March 2, ending three centuries of despotism by the Romanov dynasty. The Revolution had begun!

As Voline writes, the February Revolution, “the action of the masses[,] was spontaneous, logically climaxing a long period of concrete experience and moral preparation. This action was neither organized nor guided by any political party. Supported by the people in armsthe

Army—it was victorious” (emphasis in original). He clarifies that this incredible historical progression was achieved by the people without leaders, for Yuli Martov (Menshevik) and Vladimir Lenin, Lev Trotsky, and Nikolai Bukharin (Bolsheviks) were all exiled at this time, only to return after February.

What helped propel the Revolution?

Though the February Revolution gave rise to a bourgeois Provisional Government led by Alexander Kerensky, a social-democratic member of the Socialist-Revolutionary (SR) Party, the emancipatory spirit of the Revolution was carried on by the insurgent peasantry and proletariat. The peasants, who made up 85% of Russia’s population at the time, immediately set about expropriating the land after the fall of the Tsar, and the Petrograd Soviet was resurrected from the 1905 Revolution, once again becoming a trusted voice of the working class and ever-greater segments of the Army. Nonetheless, the Provisional Government perpetuated Russia’s participation in the war, a decisive factor impelling the fall of the Romanov dynasty, and Kerensky even re-established the death penalty at the front. He also ordered a disastrous offensive on the Austro-German lines in June 1917.

In August, the White General Kornilov attempted to crush the Revolution in the name of the Provisional Government, but the workers of Petrograd once again mobilized as they had in February to defend the city with arms and by rerouting forces sent via rail to support Kornilov’s putsch attempt. Subsequently, the Bolsheviks won majorities in the soviets, factory committees, and soldiers’ committees, and in light of the Left-Socialist Revolutionaries’ decision to affiliate with them, the Party gained much sympathy among workers and peasants alike. Thanks to its heroic past, the SR Party, which represented the cause of agrarian socialism, had become the strongest party after February 1917, taking the majority of the seats in the Constituent Assembly, and enjoying the support of the majority of the population due to its “solid backing in the villages as a result of its pre-revolutionary activity and its work in promoting peasant cooperatives” (Maximov 50). This arrangement between the Bolsheviks and Left-SR’s would continue until July 1918, when the latter attempted to overthrow the Red State. Following the Provisional Government’s release of an arrest warrant against Lenin on July 6, 1917, the Red leader went underground to plan an insurrection against Kerensky.

For further reading:

What was the anarchist role in the Revolution?

Numerically, self-described anarchists in Russia at the time of the February Revolution were not particularly strong, as the movement was just beginning, while revolutionary syndicalism was similarly germinating, and the most radical element of party politics, the Left-SR’s, was relatively weak in comparison to the Bolsheviks. Besides that, the Left-SR’s were actually in coalition with the ruling Bolshevik Party from Red October until July 1918, when they attempted to overthrow their erstwhile allies. Voline emphasizes that, had the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists had more time than they were given before the Bolshevik assault of April 1918, they could likely have influenced the masses to boldly carry on with the project of free initiative and self-organization made possible by the Revolution. Yet he remarks with disappointment upon his return to Petrograd from exile in July 1917 that, “[i]n the fifth month of a great revolution, no Anarchist newspaper, no Anarchist voice was making itself heard in the capital of the country. And this in the face of the almost unlimited activity of the Bolsheviki!” (emphasis in original).

Between May and October 1917, some anarcho-syndicalists voted with the Reds in factory committees in favor of workers’ control, and the resurgent anti-authoritarianism of the Russian masses after February to some extent led the Bolsheviks to converge opportunistically with anti-statist and federalist critiques, thus misrepresenting their own politics (Goodwin 45-6). While the Bolsheviks did want to end Russian participation in World War I and have the land be returned to the peasantry, it is also true that the Bolsheviks ultimately crushed soviet-based democracythus contradicting their rhetorical commitment to have “all power” be devolved “to the sovietsand only retroactively acknowledged the peasantry’s expropriation of private property since February with their Land Decree, proclaimed on October 26, 1917, the day after the fall of the Winter Palace. Additionally, as shall be described more below, the Reds had a prejudiced, authoritarian view of the peasants in line with Marxist ideology which rationalized the commission of several atrocities against them.

Ironically, then, anarchist sailors from Kronstadt played an important role in the insurrection to capture the Winter Palace. The Dvintsi (from Dvinsk) regiment, both comprised of and commanded by anarchists, was similarly critical in the struggle against Kerensky’s forces. Their commander, Gratchov, distributed arms and ammunition to the workers shortly after the October seizure of power, anticipating the danger this posed to the Revolution, but was killed under mysterious circumstances soon after having reported to the Bolshevik authorities. Anatoli Jelezniakov, an anarchist Kronstadter, was the one who ordered the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in January 1918, announcing that the parliamentarians had “prattled long enough!” Anarchists also participated in the defense against General Kornilov’s coup attempt of August 1917 and organized libertarian-oriented partisan groups, such as the “M. A. Bakunin Partisan Detachment” of Yekaterinoslav or the Black Guards detachments commanded by Maria Nikiforova in Ukraine. Anarchists were moreover critical to the defense against Admiral Kolchak’s White forces in eastern Russia and Siberia.

Grimly, the Red authorities used the pretext of the Moscow Black Guards’ supposed plans for an “anarchist counter-revolution” to suppress the movement in April 1918, by which time the movement in Russia had numbered an estimated 10,000 individuals (Goodwin 48). In parallel, Nestor Makhno’s Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine was organized on anarchist principles, and the Makhnovists played a crucial role in defending the Revolution from the reactionary White Armies led by Generals Denikin and Wrangel during 1919-1920—before they, too, were suppressed by the Bolsheviks. The Greens, a powerful guerrilla movement spearheaded by deserting ex-conscripts, successfully defended the autonomous peasant revolution against Whites and Reds alike in the Civil War (1918-20) until their eventual defeat by the centralizing Bolshevik State.

The Union for Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda began publishing Golos Truda (“The Voice of Labor”) in Petrograd as a weekly in summer 1917, continuing until spring 1918 and then restarting later in Moscow. The Union also founded an Anarcho-Syndicalist publishing house, but both the press and the Union were shut down by the Reds in 1919. Meanwhile, the Federation of Anarchist Groups of Moscow published the daily Anarchy, with an anarcho-communist perspective, carrying on intensive propaganda work from 1917-18. Though Federation members participated with the Dvintsi in the struggle against Kerensky, the Reds repressed the Federation in April 1918, eliminating the last of its militants by 1921. In Ukraine, Nestor Makhno, Peter Arshinov, Voline, and others were involved in the founding in late 1918 of the Nabat (“Tocsin”) Confederation, which sought a unified anarchist movement, proclaimed the necessity of libertarian social revolution through its Nabat newspaper, and tried to organize a Pan-Russian Anarchist Confederation—a project that was directly stifled by Trotsky. Like the Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine, all these anarchist organizations “eventually met with the same fate: brutal suppression by the ‘Soviet’ authority.”

The editors of Golos Truda, who included Voline and Maximov, among others, denounced the ongoing war and called on Russian conscripts to desert the war-effort, thus providing the possibility of an example to the rest of the world’s soldiers, who in unison could ignite a world revolution. The editors considered it their “first duty, our most sacred task, to take up this work immediately in our own land […by ] open[ing] new horizons for the laboring masses, [and] help[ing] them in their quest.” In their initial issues, they emphasized the importance of continuing and deepening the Revolution:

We say to the Russian workers, peasants, soldiers, revolutionists: Above all, continue the Revolution. Continue to organize yourselves solidly and to unite your new organizations: your communes, your unions, your committees, your Soviets. Continue—with firmness and perseverance, always and everywhere—to participate more and more extensively and more and more effectively, in the economic activity of the country. Continue to take into your hands, that is, into the hands of your organizations, all the raw materials and all the instruments indispensable to your labor. Continue to eliminate private enterprises.

Continue the Revolution! Do not hesitate to face the solution of all the burning questions of the present. Create everywhere the necessary organizations to achieve those solutions. Peasants, take the land and put it at the disposal of your committees. Workers, proceed to put in the hands of and at the disposal of your own social organizations—everywhere on the spot—the mines and the subsoil, the enterprises and establishments of airports, the works and factories, the workshops, and the machines.

Golos Truda’s editors stress the need for workers and peasants to create autonomous class organizations in order to press forward with the reconstruction of the economy from below, and the need for intellectuals to focus their efforts in helping the masses prepare for the “real Revolution” of socializing production. By means of such class organizations could the economic system realistically transition into serving popular interests. Demarcating their position from all statists, the editors observe that political parties are required for the task of taking power, but,

To take over the economy, a political party is not indispensable. But indispensable to that action are the organizations of the masses, independent organizations remaining outside of all political parties. It is upon these organizations that falls, at the moment of the Revolution, the task of building the new social and economic system.

That is why the Anarchists do not form a political party. They agitate, either directly in the mass organizations or—as propagandists—in groups and ideological unions.

As an illustration of the same, consider the fate of the Nobel refinery in Petrograd: in late 1917, the refinery’s workers decided to manage the site collectively in the wake of its abandonment by the owners during the Revolution, yet the Red authorities completely ignored their will and shuttered it anyway, laying off all the workers. The situation was generally very similar throughout much of Russia and Ukraine, for the Bolshevik authorities prohibited the masses from independent action, maligning such initiative as a “breach of discipline,” and actively suppressed autonomous social movements like those of the anarchists, the Makhnovists, and the Greens, as well as cooperatives, workers on strike, and peasants in revolt.

Golos Truda’s editors summarize it well:

Anarchism is not only an idea, a goal; it is, before anything else, also a method, a means of struggling for the emancipation of [humanity] […]. One cannot achieve Anarchism in any way except by going straight to the goal, by the direct Anarchist road. Otherwise one never will arrive (emphasis in original).

For further reading:

 

How did the events beginning in 1917 present two opposing conceptions of social revolution?

Voline emphasizes that, in spite of the “victory” of Bolshevism in power, anarchism represented a real alternative that envisaged “a full and integral social revolution” after February 1917. In 1918, this liberatory alternative posed such a threat to the Red State that the Bolsheviks felt compelled to utterly crush it by means of terror. It was thus through force rather than via discussion or debate that the Reds suppressed the anarchist alternative, initially in April 1918 through outright repression of anarchist individuals and collectives and the shuttering of libertarian social centers and presses, and evermore so between 1919-1921, particularly in Ukraine, where the Makhnovists struggled against White reaction and subsequently against Red betrayal. Voline writes that the period between Red October and the end of 1918 was “significant and decisive, and that it “was in the course of those months that the fate of the Revolution was decided.” Still, it was not until they had suppressed the Kronstadt Commune and otherwise eliminated the libertarian movement by the end of 1921 that the Reds became masters of the political situation, although even then their authority had in reality been destroyed throughout vast swathes of rural regions, as peasants set off mass-rebellions against conscription and the grain-requisition regimes imposed by the Reds.

Whereas the Bolsheviks implemented statist-authoritarian means as their revolutionary strategy, Russian and Ukrainian anarchists followed Proudhon and Bakunin’s vision of “direct and federative alliance[s]” among the associated workers and peasants with their unions, communes, and cooperatives organized non-hierarchically along local, regional, and international lines. In contrast to the Marxist view of centralization first, followed in theory by an eventual “withering away of the State,” the anarchists stressed the importance of an immediate rather than delayed socialization of the means of production by the working classes. It is therefore untrue that anarchists had no vision for social organization after the Revolution. On the contrary, we see two contrasting principles of organization: namely, the Bolsheviks’ centralist-authoritarian principles versus the anarchists’ libertarian and federative ones. In Voline’s words, “Naturally, the Anarchists say, it is necessary that society be organized. But this new organization should be done freely, socially, and, certainly, from the bottom [up].”

Like Bakunin, Voline sees a role for an “elite” to organize the libertarian social revolution, but such revolutionary organizers must be “true collaborators” with the people, who help them, “enlighten them, teach them, […] impel them to take the initiative, […] and support them in their action,” not “dictators” who hold power dominate, subjugate, or oppress them. This is another key difference with Bolshevism, which prescribes an elite that is to be aided by the masses and armed forces through blind obedience. In contrast, anarchism envisions that, through

The natural interplay of their economic, technical, and social organizations, [and] with the help of the “elite” and, in case of need, under the protection of their freely organized armed forces, the labouring masses should […] be able to carry the Revolution effectively forward and progressively arrive at the practical achievement of all of its tasks.

Against the Reds’ interest in the “organization of power,” anarchists counterposed the project of “organizing the Revolution.” For Voline, there exists “an explicit and irreconcilable contradiction” between the true libertarian social revolution and “the theory and practice” of statism and authoritarianism.

 

How did the Revolution go wrong?

“the forward march of the revolutionary masses toward real emancipation, toward the creation of new forms of social life, is incompatible with the very principle of State power” (Voline).

In contrast to Trotsky’s well-known hypothesis set forth in The Revolution Betrayed (1937), that the “degeneration” of the Russian Revolution came about only with the rise of Stalin in 1924, the Bolshevik seizure of power on October 25-26, 1917, arguably can be considered the beginning of its corruption. Voline describes the storming of the Winter Palace as amounting “virtually [to] a palace revolution” that gave the Reds a clear tactical advantage over the anarchists. That the Russian masses entrusted the fate of the Revolution to the Bolsheviks reflected both the hegemony of statism in the Russian popular imagination as well as the “insufficiency of the preliminary destruction” achieved in the February Revolution. Voline means to say that the people’s toleration of the continued existence of the State after the fall of Tsarism set the stage for the Bolshevik seizure of power and the subsequent deviation and destruction of the Revolution. Instead of the left-wing coalition government favored by the Menshevik Yuli Martov or any sense of direct democracy based on the soviets, the victorious Bolsheviks effectively instituted a one-party dictatorship which claimed baselessly to represent the interests of the proletariat. Subsequently adopting a perspective that in a way anticipated the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt’s distinction between “friends” and “enemies,” the Reds forcibly disarmed the workers and their organizations and suppressed all alternative factions through the use of terror. As the publisher of Gregori Maximov’s The Guillotine at Work explains, during the Russian Civil War (1918-1920):

all-non Bolshevik elements were dubbed ‘petty-bourgeois and counter-revolutionary elements.’ Right and Left Social-Revolutionists, Social-Democrat[s] of all Shades, Maximalists, Anarchists of every tendency—all were placed in the same category of ‘counter-revolutionists.’ Soon these elements began to crowd not only the Tzar’s empty prisons but the vast number of private buildings converted by the Bolsheviks into prisons. Newly built ‘concentration camps,’ which were unknown to the Tzar’s government, were quickly filled (5-6).

In this way, the Bolshevik regime effectively instituted state slavery to defend its hegemony—such was the conclusion reached by Karl Kautsky, “the most prominent leader of world Social-Democracy,” while Lenin still lived (Maximov 20).

It is therefore highly ironic yet also revealing to consider that Lenin’s popularity after the February Revolution followed in large part from the entirely misleading vision he sets forth in the “April Theses” (1917), which argue that the Bolsheviks seek a “second revolution” that would overthrow the Provisional Government; abolish the police, military, and bourgeois State apparatus; and champion soviet power in its place. Acutely aware of the strong libertarian-humanist element in Russian socialism, the former exile knew that openly presenting his political project as Marxian centralism would be a non-starter in the motherland (21-3). Instead, he would attract the masses by appealing to the liberatory memory of the 1871 Paris Commune (31). In fact, such rhetorical “deviations” led several more moderate Russian Social Democrats to criticize Lenin’s call for immediate revolution as a reversion from Marxism to “Bakuninism”: Georgii Plekhanov especially made this connection, judging Lenin’s advocacy of the overthrow of the Provisional Government as “an insane and extremely harmful attempt to sow anarchist turmoil on the Russian Earth” (emphasis in original). In parallel, the Menshevik Martov considered Lenin’s advocacy of bypassing the “objectively necessary” historical stage of bourgeois democracy as a dangerous reorientation of the struggle from Marx to Bakunin (Goodwin 45-7).

Nevertheless, this feigned affinity with anarchism was purely instrumental and opportunistic: while in opposition to the Provisional Government, Lenin had militated greatly against the reinstatement of the death penalty in the Army, immediately upon taking power in October, he took steps to ensure that the revolutionary announcement abolishing the death penalty made on October 26, 1917—the day after the Winter Palace had fallen—was a mere formality. Instead, Lenin greatly impressed the need for the persistence of capital punishment. The appeal to the Paris Commune, therefore, was mere “bait,” a “weapon clearing the road to power” (Maximov 28-34). As the Red leader himself put it, “Do you really believe we shall be able to come out triumphant without the most drastic revolutionary terror?” (29).

Like his lieutenant Trotsky, then, Lenin was a State Terrorist, the “initiator and ideologist of terror in the Russian Revolution modeled upon the terror of the French Revolution” (Maximov 30). By suppressing not only the capitalists but also the rest of the non-Bolshevik left after October, these two figures bear principal responsibility for the vast suffering and death brought about by the Civil War. In targeting socialist-democratic forces of the Revolution for destruction, the Reds similarly targeted the masses of workers and peasants who supported these forces. In contrast, Maximov speculates that, had the broad Russian left been united rather than dealing with a treacherous war launched on it by the Bolsheviks, the “resistance” of the landowners and reactionaries who would go on to comprise the White Armies would have been easily defeated, and the need to resort to terror quite baseless (32-3). Instead, a myriad of socialist and anarchist groups, trade unions, and cooperatives became the regime’s adversaries (37). In parallel, workers and peasants who resisted Bolshevik policies—such as in the case of the latter, vast grain requisitions taken indiscriminately by the Red Army from rich and poor peasants alike to feed the cities—were depicted as “enemies of the people” (39). For this reason, many were targeted for arrest or assassination by the CheKa, or the Extraordinary Committee, which Lenin established in December 1917 (54-6).

For Maximov, then, the Marxist-Leninist centralized State views virtually the entire population as its enemy, with its only “friend” being the minority of pro-Bolshevik workers. This political strategy of championing the dictatorship of the proletariat—or really, the Party over the proletariat and the peasantry—hence inevitably becomes “a slaveholders democracy, which, as distinguished from the one of the ancient world, has for its aim freedom, economic equality, freeing the entire population from slavery, and all this is to be realized… by enslaving the entire population! Could there be a more absurd theory?” (41). Maximov here echoes Bakunin’s prescient warnings about the the risks associated with a Red bureaucracy: “Take the fiercest revolutionary and put him on the All-Russian throne or give him dictatorial power, […] and he will become worse than Alexander Nikolaevich [Alexander II] himself in a year.”

In light of the constellation of forces after Red October, it is quite unsurprising that freedom and equality came to be associated under Lenin with bourgeois delusions, and the critical victories over Tsarism represented by the securing of the freedom of the press, association, and organization in February thus easily rolled back (Maximov 42-3). Voline observes with reason that this suppression of freedom of speech, press, organization, and action “is fatal to true revolution.” Indeed, the Bolshevik regime revealed its autocratic character through its mass-violation of the formal abolition of capital punishment that had been decreed the day of the fall of the Winter Palace in October 1917 (55). The regime even wantonly executed followers of Tolstoy for observing their religious beliefs regarding non-cooperation with war in refusing conscription for the Red Army (10, 195). Ultimately, Lenin’s terroristic employment of the CheKa was in no way accountable to the soviets but rather a consciously elitist effort to “direct” the Revolution toward the Reds’ consolidation of power by means of the suppression of various rivals on left and right (57-8). In specifically targeting the libertarian movement, the Bolsheviks suppressed the Revolution itself. As Voline recounts:

Thus, inch by inch, the rulers become the absolute masters of the country. They create privileged classes on which they base themselves. They organize forces capable of sustaining them, and defend themselves fiercely against all opposition, all contradiction, all independent initiative. Monopolizing everything, they take over the whole life and activity of the country. And having no other way of acting, they oppress, subjugate, enslave, exploit. They repress all resistance. They persecute and wipe out, in the name of the Revolution, everyone who will not bend to their will.

To justify themselves, they lie, deceive, slander.

To stifle the truth, they are brutal. They fill the prisons and places of exile; they torture, kill, execute, assassinate.

That is what happened, exactly and inevitably, to the Russian Revolution.

For further reading:

 

What was the role of the Bolshevik Party?

The Bolsheviks, the supposed “majority” faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party, agitated and organized against the Provisional Government and Russia’s ongoing participation in World War I following the February 1917 Revolution. Yet as Voline observes, the Reds’ most popular slogansLong live the Revolution! Down with the war! The land to the peasants! The factories to the workers!were in fact appropriated from the anarchists. As discussed above, moreover, Lenin’s public program, as based on the April theses, invoked the liberatory model of the Paris Commune, thus gravely deceiving the Russian masses as to the Reds’ actual political project: the imposition of State capitalism in the name of communism. Consider Lenin’s comments from “The Tax in Kind” (1921), that,

[w]hile the revolution in Germany still tarries, our task should be to learn from the Germans how to run state capitalism, by all means to copy it from them and not to spare dictatorial methods in order to accelerate this process of taking over from the Germans, doing it at an even more rapid pace than the one followed by Peter the First in Westernizing barbarous Russia […] (emphasis added).

Wrongly considered the “leaders” of the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks in fact usurped power from the soviets and thus from the people through their October 1917 seizure of power, completely deviating the course of the Revolution. Even in November 1917, the editors of Golos Truda had anticipated that the soviets could well become merely executive organs of the nascent Red State; this is unfortunately what happened rather soon after Red October. Besides this, the Bolsheviks’ first major imposition on the masses came with the new authorities’ signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany (negotiations for which began in November 1917, with its ratification coming in March 1918), an accord that exchanged control over the Baltic States, Ukraine, and Belarus to the Central Powers for Russia’s withdrawal from the conflict. This deal, the invention of Lenin and Trotsky, greatly contradicted the wishes of the Russian masses, the Left SR’s, the Maximalists, the anarchists, and even the majority of the members of the Bolshevik Party’s Central Committee, who preferred to continue a revolutionary war against the Austro-Hungarian and German imperialists. Lenin’s self-assertion here presages the ruthless centralism that would govern the Reds’ consolidation of power through the terroristic elimination of political rivals and enemies, and it would serve as the grounds for the Left-SR’s attempt at their overthrow (July 1918).

The Bolshevik Party carried out one of the most disastrous examples of substitutionism in history: that is, the substitution of the autonomous, independent action of the people by the centralized rule of dictatorship. While they claimed to represent the interests of the workers and peasants, the Reds, “a government [comprised] of intellectuals, of Marxist doctrinaires,” in fact greatly oppressed them by means of their imposition of State capitalism over them. Through the Red Terror and during the Civil War, the Bolsheviks practiced self-preservation at the expense of millions of lives of workers and peasants and the very Revolution itself (Maximov 149, 185). The “bourgeois statist-reformers” Lenin and Trotsky essentially employed instrumental thinking and oppression in their own supposed struggle against oppression, which in effect was quite enslaving, and demonstrated clearly for all “how not to wage a revolution.”

The reactionary meaning of Bolshevik rule is illuminated well by the proletarian Communist Party member Gavril Miasnikov, who was expelled from the Party in 1922, effectively for thoughtcrime. Reflecting on the meaning of the Russian Revolution to date, Miasnikov addresses Lenin directly, observing, “To break the jaws of the international bourgeoisie is all very well, but the trouble is that you lift your hand against the bourgeoisie and you strike at the worker. Which class now supplies the greatest number of people arrested on charges of counter-revolution? Peasants and workers, to be sure” (Maximov 271, emphasis added).

For further reading:

 

What was the Red Terror?

“Lenin’s mind, like the mind of any partisan of dictatorship, of any dictatorship, works only along a single trackthe police” (Maximov 150).

The infamous Red Terror launched by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in April 1918 sought to resolve the contradiction between the profoundly libertarian progress seen since February with the Bolsheviks’ authoritarian vision for the region. The Terror is outlined in Lenin’s address on April 29, 1918, “The Immediate Tasks of Soviet Power,” which stresses the putative necessity of “halting the offensive upon capital” waged by striking workers and those engaged in self-management and industrial democracy (Maximov 59-62). Acknowledging the “great deal of elemental Anarchism” evident throughout the former Empire, Lenin insists in parallel on the need for an “iron power” to keep the anarchic peasantry under control (63-66). According to Voline, the Bolsheviks saw clearly that allowing anarchists freedom would be equivalent to political suicide. Soon after publishing “The Immediate Tasks,” Lenin reiterated the necessity of an “iron order” and announced a “great crusade” to be comprised of urban workers’ brigades against “grain speculators, Kulaks, village usurers, disorganizers, grafters [… and all] those who violate the strict order established by the State” in the countryside (Maximov 68). The plundering and murders engaged in by Red grain-requisitioners provoked a vast uprising of the peasantry throughout much of Russia and Ukraine—yet rather than lament such a turn of events, Lenin considered it a “merit” that “we [had] brought civil war to the village” (69-71).

The second stage of the Terror, an intensification of the same, began after the Left-SR and ex-anarchist Dora Kaplan’s attempt on Lenin’s life in August 1918. By means of these two stages, by the end of 1918, the Reds had suppressed civil liberties and banned all non-Communist publications, broken up anarchist collectives and murdered individual anarchists, outlawed the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, suppressed the Left-SR’s, executed a countless number, and incarcerated tens of thousands (Maximov 84). In parallel, the peasantry was used as a target for exploitation and regimentation. Consider this testimony by a Left-SR about the scorched-earth tactics employed by the Reds against the peasants of Tambov:

I was arrested not in January 1921, but in September 1920. There was no wide insurrectionary movement in the government of Tambov, although there were detached cases of armed resistance on the part of the peasants to the requisitioning detachments who were shamelessly looting the villages. On the day of my arrival in Tambov the Central Executive Committee of Tambov Soviets hung out the following announcement, declaring that ‘because of their attempt to disrupt the campaign of grain collecting, the villages Verkhne-Spasskoye (ten thousand population), Koziri (six thousand), and four other villages were burnt, hundreds of peasants were shot, and their property was looted.’ During my six months of confinement in the prisons of the Tambov CheKa I had a chance to see for myself the nightmarish picture of mass-annihilation and ruination of the toiling peasants of the government of Tambov which was carried on by the Communist authorities: hundreds of peasants were shot by the Revolutionary Circuit Courts and the Tambov CheKa; thousands of unarmed peasants were mowed down by the machine guns of the students of military schools and Communists, and tens of thousands were exiled to the far away North, while their property was burned or looted. The same picture, according to the data which the party of Left-Social-Revolutionaries has at its disposal, can be drawn for a number of other provinces: the government of Samara, Kazan, Saratov, in Ukraine, Siberia, etc. (Maximov 87-8).

Official statistics show that there were at least 245 peasant uprisings in 1918, and 99 in the first half of 1919 (Maximov 91). These were cruelly suppressed by the Reds, and such suppression in turn catalyzed further rebellions. Indeed, echoing the Left-SR’s testimony cited above, the CheKa gave explicit orders for the utilization of “mass terror” against villages considered to be supportive of the Green guerrillas, who defended the local peasant revolution (122-3). Additionally, the Reds in 1919-1920 destroyed the Russian cooperative movement due to its ties to non-Bolshevik socialists; as Maximov writes, “the cooperatives furnished an abundant and ever-renewed supply of inmates for the prisons and concentration camps” (132-3). By thus “ruthlessly persecuting all those who differed with them in opinion,” Lenin and Trotsky are clearly responsible for the vast crimes of the Terror, as for preparing the conditions for the 1921 famine, which took the lives of over 5 million people, in accordance with official statistics (96, 185). While 1921 did see drought and a resulting poor harvest, that the peasantry lacked accumulated stock due to the Reds’ grain-requisition regime can explain the breadth and depth of the famine (183-4).

Yet, by this time, Lenin would rationalize such State Terror by saying that the alternative of equality and democracy advocated by Left-SR’s, anarchists, and other democratic critics would necessarily allow the White reaction victory in the Civil War, such that, according to this thought process, Left-SR’s, anarchists, and democrats effectively became imperialist stooges and agents for the “restoration of capitalism.” Lenin explicitly says as much, calling those who “continue to struggle for the ‘equality of labor democracy’ […] partisans of Kolchak,” the leader of the Whites (Maximov 94). In this way, the emergence of the Civil War and the White reaction was utilized as a new and retroactive rationalization of the pre-existing Terror, and grounds for its expansion, as in Petrograd and Astrakhan, where the CheKa in 1919 forcibly suppressed striking workers (99-103). Maximov estimates that in 1919 alone, the Chekist terror took the lives of 25,000, with some 44,000 imprisoned and subjected to starvation, forced labor, torture, and rampant disease (111-2). In the provinces ruled by Trotsky, workers were often shot for “violating labor discipline” (136). This follows from the demand he made at the Third All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions (1920) for the “militarization of labor,” and his deluded sense that, the Soviet Union supposedly having become a “Workers’ State,” labor no longer had any need to organize independently of the State.

In February 1920, the CheKa announced the formal abolition of the death penalty in Russia with the exception of the war front, yet in May it was re-established by official decree. Just before the ban came into effect in February, however, CheKa head Felix Dzherzhinsky ordered the mass-execution of those sentenced to death, with the Left-SR A. Izmaylovich recalling the shooting of 150 prisoners in Moscow on the eve of the decree’s proclamation (Maximov 119-20). Red authoritarianism only burgeoned more: in “The Party Crisis” (January 1921), Lenin defended labor’s militarization, dismissed talk of industrial democracy, and identified the heresy of “syndicalist deviation” as something to be extirpated (Maximov 144-5). Whereas the policies of forcible grain requisitions in large part had triggered the 1921-1922 famine, Lenin in no way relieved the peasantry of this yoke but instead continued to demand further extraction, wielding terror against peasants who resisted and restricting the movement of starving peasants to other provinces in search of food by means of military cordons (149-50).

Thus, in contrast to the political opening expected by many leftists, workers, and peasants following the victory over the Whites in the Civil War—the hopes of getting on with the project of instituting a new Paris Commune in Russia, as falsely projected by Lenin in 1917 and 1918—the Reds showed that they were fully prepared to continue using State Terror to hold on to power. Alongside the fate of the Makhnovists, the suppression of the Kronstadt Commune is the best evidence for this sad reality, accounting for a quarter of the estimated 70,000 lives taken by the Red Terror in the year 1921 (Maximov 199).

Altogether, from 1917 to 1924, Maximov estimates that 200,000 lives were taken directly by the Red Terror, and that the Bolshevik experiment overall cost between 8 and 10 million lives, if we factor in victims of the Civil War and the 1921 famine, or between 10 and 13 million, if we incorporate the deaths attributable to the White Terror and reaction as well as the 1924 famine (Maximov 240-1).

For further reading:

What was the Russian Civil War?

The Russian Civil War, launched by the top-heavy White Army against the Revolution in 1918 with the forces of international reaction behind it, centrally pitted Reds against Whites but also saw important liberatory roles played by the Greens, the Left-SR’s, and the Makhnovists, all of whom opposed Whites and Reds alike. White Armies led variously by Generals Denikin and Wrangel as well as Admiral Kolchak were defeated by the joint action of the people in the revolt, the Makhnovists, the Greens, and the Red Army by 1920. Voline points out that some of this counter-revolutionary militarism was actually supported by Right-SR’s and Mensheviks. Yet by the end of 1919, with “Kolchak and Denikin […] defeated and the movements headed by them […] virtually liquidated,” much of Russia and Ukraine had been “cleared of white guardist bands” (Maximov 113). According to Maximov, irregular libertarian partisans of Russia’s Far East were decisive in the defeat of the Whites in that region (236).

The Greens, so named thanks to their forest and marshland hideouts, united many “deserter comrades” with disaffected peasants impelled by hatred of State exploitation into rural partisan armies that defended the Revolution from Red and White alike in Ukraine, the Volga and Urals regions, Siberia, and some central Russian provinces (Posadskii 8, 11). Makhno, himself a peasant, led the Insurgent Army through Ukraine, inflicting devastating losses on Whites as his liberatory forces went. Influenced by anarchism, Makhno hoped to create a peasant utopia on the land; unlike many Greens, who opposed both Reds and Whites, Makhno engaged in tactical alliances with the Reds until 1920, when the latter betrayed the Makhnovists following their vital services rendered to the defense of the Revolution. Whereas Makhno and his followers together with the Siberian Greens favored free soviets and free federations, the Greens met with a similar fate at the hands of the victorious Bolsheviks: the Red Army engaged in scorched-earth tactics against peasant communities considered to be supportive of the guerrilla movement, specifically targeting family members of known Greens for reprisal in Caucasia, Crimea, and the Don basin (Posadskii 4-14; Maximov 176-7, 194-5).

In response to their perception of the Bolsheviks’ capitulation to imperialism with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Left-SR’s assassinated the German ambassador and a high-ranking German officer in July 1918, and they spearheaded a short-lived uprising against the Bolsheviks in Moscow. Later, from 1920-1921, the Left-SR Alexander Antonov led a major Green uprising in the Tambov region, one so menacing Lenin would consider it the single greatest threat to his rule. Yet the Tambov Rebellion, too, was put down using overwhelming force, as detailed above.

The flag of the Green Armies of the Russian Revolution

What about the imperialists?

There is no doubt that the capitalist powers intervened on the side of the Whites against the Revolution in the Russian Civil War. The infamous Czech Legion, for example, seized control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad (completed under Nicholas II) during part of the Civil War, and imperialist governments supplied the Whites heavily with arms and ammunition. The “North Russia” campaign by U.S., British, French, and Polish forces captured the key port city of Arkhangelsk from the Reds in 1918. Nonetheless, such imperialist intervention cannot explain or rationalize the depravity of Bolshevik rule. As Lenin and company often blamed the shortcomings of the Revolution on “capitalist encirclement” and the “inaction” of the global proletariat, they assumed that the success of the Russian Revolution depended on the spread of social revolution to other countries, yet did not stop to think that the very lack of an expanding global revolution perhaps reflected workers’ ambiguities about the meaning of the Russian Revolution after its deviation by the Reds. In July 1918, the Bolsheviks would see the repercussions of their negotiating a peace with the German and Austro-Hungarian imperialists, when the Left-SR’s attempted an abortive uprising to overthrow Lenin and his colleagues due to their desire to defend the Revolution by continuing the war against imperialism.

 

What happened in Ukraine?

In Ukraine, Makhno, Arshinov, and Voline worked with the syndicalist Nabat (“Alarm”) confederation once the Revolution broke out. The Makhnovists proclaimed “Land and Liberty,” expropriated the land, and promoted soviet-based democracy in the regions they liberated. In 1919, the Insurrectionary Army led by Makhno hailed the Third Revolution against the Bolsheviks and called for land to be transferred from the Red State directly to the peasantry itself.

In 1919, the Reds conspired to crush the Makhnovists, even as the Insurrectionary Army was holding the line against the White General Denikin’s forces invading from the south. The Bolsheviks’ calculus was that Denikin would annihilate Makhno’s forces, thus eliminating a major rival to their rule, and then the Ukrainian peasantry would rebel against the occupying Whites and so weaken it before a victorious Red Army counter-offensive. Toward this end, in June Trotsky declared illegal the Fourth Extraordinary Convention being organized by the Makhnovists and ordered the arrest and execution of a number of commanders, though Makhno escaped unharmed.

Thereafter, the Insurrectionary Army regrouped and rallied to the defense of the Revolution, wreaking havoc in the rear of Denikin’s forces, which were thereafter easily defeated en route to Moscow by the Red Army (Maximov 108-111). The Reds then re-entered into a tactical military alliance with the Makhnovists to rout the White General Wrangel’s forces in Crimea. Importantly, the text of this pact stipulates that those regions in which the Makhnovists have presence are to be governed by the principles of “autonomy, federalism, and free agreement” in their relations with the Reds (126). Yet once Wrangel too had been defeated, Red Army commanders ordered the Insurrectionary Army to incorporate itself into the Red Army (127-8); when they refused to do so, they were criminalized as “bandits,” and the Reds banned their planned 1920 pan-Russian anarchist congress in Kharkov, ordering Makhno’s arrest as a “counter-revolutionary.” The militants were crushed, and the leadership driven into exile (Avrich 60).

The fate of the Makhnovists followed from the Reds’ premeditated policy of physically destroying popular insurgent movements, both “those that were hostile to them as well as those that fought together with them against Kolchak and Denikin” (173-4). How ironic that the anarchists’ heroic defense of the Southern line against the Whites only facilitated the Reds’ repression of the libertarian movement throughout Russia!

A similar story is seen in Russia’s Far East, where the Reds suppressed anarchists, Maximalists, and Left-SR’s after their critical contributions to the defeat of the White reaction in the region (Maximov 237-8).

For further reading:

 

Were Makhno and his followers anti-Semitic?

No, though Red apologists such as Trotsky like to claim that the Makhnovists hated Jews. Against such slanderous charges, Voline cites the example of Grigoriev, an ex-tsarist officer who led a reactionary peasant movement in Ukraine in 1919 that did engage in pogroms: “One of the reasons for the execution of Grigoriev by the Makhnovists was his anti-semitism and the immense pogrom he organised at Elizabethgrad, which cost the lives of nearly three thousand persons.”

He adds several other reasons showing the Makhnovists’ opposition to anti-Semitism, including the facts that a “fairly important part in the Makhnovist Army was played by revolutionists of Jewish origin,” that the Insurrectionary Army counted with several Jewish combatants and contained entirely Jewish fighting units, that Ukrainian Jewish communities provided many volunteers to the Army, and that “the Jewish population, which was very numerous in the Ukraine, took an active part in all the activities of the movement.”

Thus we see that the Makhnovist movement, though greatly inspired politically by the example of Mikhail Bakunin, progressed beyond this anarchist militant’s conspiratorial anti-Semitism to strictly punish chauvinistic acts inspired by such prejudice. For his part, Bakunin believed in the fantasy of universal Jewish power, and he conflates the power of finance capital with delusions about Jewish domination. See Statism and Anarchy.

What happened at Kronstadt in 1921?

The Kronstadt Commune of March 1921 was preceded by strike movements among workers in Petrograd and Moscow who demanded resolution to their starvation conditions as well as a halt to the terror and free soviet elections. The Reds met these striking workers with mass-arrests, lockouts, the declaration of martial law in Petrograd, and ultimately the armed suppression of workers in the city. As Maximov writes, whether ironically or not, “[t]the Petrograd scene strikingly resembled the last week of the Tzar’s absolutist regime” on the eve of the conflict (160). The sailors of Kronstadt echoed their fellow workers’ demands from across the bay, outlining in the Petropavlovsk resolution of February 28, 1921, fifteen demands, including the re-establishment of civil liberties, free elections to the soviets, the release of political prisoners, the review of all cases of those imprisoned and held in concentration camps, the right to organize labor unions, the immediate abolition of grain-requisitions, the liberation of the peasantry, and the abolition of Bolshevik commissars in the military and overseeing workplaces. While the resolution affirmed its demands within the parameters of the Soviet Constitution, Lenin and Trotsky found it profoundly threatening. They feared that its spirit could spread quickly within the armed forces—that the “petty-bourgeois [sic] Anarchist elemental forces [were] the most dangerous enemy, which might draw many sympathizers and partisans, which might obtain strong backing in the country and change the sentiments of the great masses of people” (Maximov 175). As such, they slandered the Kronstadt sailors, insulting them as being the dupes of Socialist Revolutionaries, a former tsarist general known as Kozlovsky, and the proto-fascist Black Hundreds.

The Bolsheviks then declared a state of emergency in Petrograd, clarifying that any crowds “congregating in the streets” were to be immediately shot, with any soldiers resisting such orders themselves to be summarily executed. The Reds also took several relatives of the sailors hostage (Maximov 165). In response, the Kronstadters took up arms to defend themselves and declared the abolition of the death penalty while themselves taking some 280 Reds hostage. Unfortunately, however, the weather was still cold enough to allow for the bay to be frozen over, thus facilitating a ground invasion of the island-fortress. Ultimately, after more than 10 days of artillery bombardment, Trotsky’s battalions, aided by ex-tsarist generals and supported by Chinese and Bashkir reinforcements, overwhelmed the Kronstadters and retook the island on March 17. An estimated 18,000 insurgents were killed in the fighting and executed shortly after their defeat (Maximov 164-8).

On March 18, the Reds held a public celebration in Petrograd marking fifty years since the beginning of the Paris Commune—this, as Kronstadt lay visibly in ruins. Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, who had attempted to intercede before the Bolsheviks to avert the Commune’s violent suppression, listened aghastly to Bolshevik military bands playing “The Internationale” in the streets. Goldman writes that “[i]ts strains, once jubilant to my ears, now sounded like a funeral dirge for humanity’s flaming hope,” while Berkman caustically observes that “Trotsky and Zinoviev denounce Thiers and Gallifet for the slaughter of the Paris rebels.”

How did Lenin contradict his supposed anti-imperialist principles while in power?

Lenin is known for his supposedly innovative characterization of imperialism as “the highest stage of capitalism,” and his view that capitalism will be taken down by the revolt of peoples oppressed by imperialism. Lenin expressed concern for the persistence of “Great Russian chauvinism” over the former Russian Empire’s numerous minorities and oppressed nationalities. So what was his relationship to such principles after he seized power over the Russian Empire?

Ukraine

See above. The Bolsheviks clearly did not favor Ukrainian self-determination.

Georgia

In February 1921, the Red Army invaded and occupied its southern neighbor Georgia from Armenia, reproducing the Red Terror in the newly conquered country. This imperialistic venture followed from the general maxim of the Terror: As Georgian Mensheviks had declared independence in October 1917, this renegade province of the Russian Empire required a coercive corrective to its course. An appeal from Tiflis (Tbilisi) workers to the workers of Western Europe from August 1921 speaks to the repression imposed by the foreign Red rulers:

From the very first days Georgia was conquered, we were placed in the position of and treated as slaves. We were deprived of freedom of speech, of press, assembly, and the right of free association. A regime of military labor service has been imposed upon all the workers of Georgia, irrespective of their occupation. Everywhere Extraordinary Committees (CheKa) have been set up […]. The advanced workers of Georgia, irrespective of their party affiliation, are thrown into prison where they are being decimated by hunger and diseases. Human life has become of no value. Innocent people are shot, even those who never mixed into politics, who never took part in any political struggle. People were shot because they served the democratic government, the State; because in open war they defended their native country from the invasion of foreign troops (Maximov 171-2).

Alongside Mensheviks, then, Georgian national-liberation fighters were targeted for elimination by the occupying Reds (236).

Central Asia: Kirghiz-Kazakh Steppe and Turkestan

A map of Turkestan/Central Asia using current borders

Larger map situating Turkestan in relation to western Russia (using current borders)

In Central Asia, the Reds’ desire to maintain imperial hegemony over the region led it to support Tsarist-era settler-colonists against the indigenous populations, resulting in a popular resistance movement known as the Basmachi (Russian for “raiders”), and subsequently intensify the conflict and ultimately accommodate the resistance movement.

Both armed rebellion in the late Tsarist era and the emergence of the Basmachi movement in Soviet Turkestan had important bases in the colonization of the Central Asian steppe during the Tsarist period. This colonization, greatly enhanced by the onset of the Stolypin reforms (1901-3), which effectively targeted the rural commune for elimination, expelled the indigenous Kirghiz-Kazakh people from the best grazing lands and disrupted their traditional way of life, resulting in annual famines from 1910 to 1913 (Pipes 83; Rywkin 16). Increasingly greater stresses on the Kirghiz-Kazakh caused them to revolt in 1916 after they were targeted for conscription during World War I. One important factor that contributed to the popular resistance to this measure was that these Muslims would be conscripted to fight alongside non-Muslims against the Ottoman Caliph (Pipes 83; Olcott 353). Following repression of the revolt, many Kirghiz-Kazakh fled to Turkestan, and this together with the entirety of the travails experienced by the indigenous peoples during the late Tsarist period caused Kirghiz-Kazakh political leaders to seek the definitive termination of Russian settlement of the region (Rywkin 17). To this end, the Kirghiz-Kazakh had, before the 1917 Revolution, begun to demand territorial autonomy above all else, in the hope that self-rule would allow them to legislate in favor of indigenous peoples and reverse the excesses of Russian colonization (Pipes 85).

Following the Revolution and further armed conflict with Kirghiz-Kazakhs returning from exile, the Russian settler-colonists increasingly came to side with the Bolsheviks, hoping to use the rhetoric of proletarian dictatorship against the indigenous Muslims: Bolshevism, in this sense, was to mean the rule of workers, soldiers, and peasants, and since the Kirghiz-Kazakh supposedly had no such organized classes or groups, they were “not to rule but be ruled” (Pipes 86). Delegates to the 1917 Congress of Soviets, fearful of losing control over the empire’s many disparate nationalities and Central Asia’s lucrative cotton production, voted against any consideration of autonomy for Turkestan and the participation of Muslims in the Soviet administration in Central Asia (Pipes 91; Olcott 359-60).

Following up such rhetoric, the Reds, after their occupation of Turkestan in 1919, excluded local nationalists from political power. Even when the Kirghiz republic was allowed autonomy a few years later, Russian settler-colonists in the area refused to accept its sovereignty and worked to undermine it, and the Kirghiz-Kazakh nationalists, without an army, political organizations, or connections in Moscow, could do little to effectively liberate the region. The 1921 and 1922 famines that struck the Kirghiz-Kazakh steppe affected the indigenous populations significantly, as they had lost much of their livestock following the 1916 rebellion and disproportionately received less food from government distributions. The profound effects of this famine can explain the subsequent lack of indigenous popular resistance to the Soviet regime in the Kirghiz-Kazakh region, in contrast to the case of Turkestan (Pipes 174).

The Basmachi

Soviet rule in Turkestan met with greater challenges than that over the Kirghiz-Kazakh region. Though Soviet rule greatly discounted indigenous interests here as it did in the Kirghiz-Kazakh steppe, it met with opposition from an indigenous Muslim government based in Kokand and, following the breakdown of the Kokand regime, an emerging popular resistance movement known as the Basmachi (Russian for “raiders”). As in the Kirghiz-Kazakh region, Soviet power found support from settler-colonial elements, but here it met opposition from the autonomy-seeking Kokand government, supported by the politically-inclined segments of the indigenous populations and anti-Communist elements. The Tashkent Soviet, in an effort to extend control over rural Turkestan, supported persecutions, expulsions from the land, and looting of the indigenous Muslims, creating a situation which one contemporary Soviet official equated with the “feudal exploitation of the broad masses of the indigenous population by the Russian Red Army man, colonist, and official” (Pipes 177-8, emphasis added). Though the Tashkent Soviet firmly controlled urban areas, it had little authority over the countryside, where the populace had been alienated by Soviet cooperation in what it deemed a continued colonization. Tensions at this time between the two rival governments came to a head, and the Tashkent Soviet, fearful of the Kokand government’s emphasis on national self-determination, ordered the city of Kokand destroyed, its government overthrown (Pipes 174-8).

Following this brazen dismissal of indigenous interests, the Tashkent Soviet made little effort to win back the allegiance of its Muslims subjects and made little effort to relieve those affected by the winter famine of 1917-18, thus pushing more Muslims into supporting and joining the Basmachi movement (Rywkin 22-3). To some, the destruction of the Kokand Islamic government and its replacement with a secular, anti-religious State constituted blasphemy and can explain emergent cooperation with the developing Basmachi movement (Olcott 358). The Tashkent Soviet’s efforts at confiscating waqf, or clerical lands, for the benefit of the regime; the closing of religious schools; and the discontinuation of shari’at courts further contributed to popular opposition to the Soviet regime (Pipes 259).

The emergence of the popular resistance movement known as the Basmachi constituted a reaction to perceived Soviet abuses and excesses which, gathering support from the general populace, struggled violently against foreign occupation and resulted in an escalation and intensification of counter-insurgency efforts. In contrast to the later occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989), the Soviets eventually came to realize that brute force itself would not succeed in bringing an end to popular insurrection in Turkestan, and so they successfully co-opted the Basmachi movement from below by responding to the needs and desires of the populace supporting the movement.

Following the fall of Kokand, many indigenous individuals involved in the government, along with others suffering under the requisitions and looting attendant with the Soviet regime, joined the Basmachi, who previously had been feared by the population at large as bandits and common criminals. The group came to represent the struggle for liberation from Soviet rule (Pipes 178; Rywkin 33). The Basmachi soon grew to control the Turkestani countryside, generally enjoying the support of the population and, by violently punishing collaboration with the Soviet regime, coercing those who would think twice about backing them (Rywkin 35; Haugen 89). Though targeted at Bolshevik rule, the Basmachi resistance increasingly came to represent a Muslim struggle against Russians rather than an anti-communist campaign (Rywkin 38). The movement, plagued by lack of unity among its leaders, hoped to overcome these difficulties and approach victory with the defection of Enver Pasha, a former ruler of Turkey whom Lenin had sent to quell the insurgency, yet who ended up joining it himself. Enver’s integration into the Basmachi strengthened the movement, increasing its numbers to twenty thousand members who now could count a number of victories under their belts. Nonetheless, Enver failed to unify the resistance, having antagonized other Basmachi commanders with his vision of a pan-Turkic Muslim empire (Pipes 258; Rywkin 39). With his death in battle against the Reds in 1922, all hopes to consolidate the resistance movement ended (Pipes 259).

The Soviet regime coupled military escalation in response to Basmachi with political concessions. The combination of these two factors undermine popular support for the Basmachi and thus their effectiveness. Moscow saw in the emergence and perpetuation of the Basmachi movement the persistent refusal of the Tashkent Soviet to grant autonomy to indigenous peoples, such that, in 1918, Stalin ordered Turkestan autonomous. However, the non-cooperation of local communists with this directive caused it to be irrelevant until Lenin later intensified central pressure on the Tashkent communists (Pipes Ibid 179, 183). The result of heavy pressuring, the 1920 Seventh Congress of Soviets was the first to allow Muslim participation, but few would-be delegates attended for fear of reprisals from the then-raging Basmachi movement (Rywkin 26). The Eighth Congress, though, yielded an indigenous majority in the Tashkent government, thus arousing the hopes of Turkestani intellectuals for self-determination. Although Lenin, in contrast to the Russian settler-colonists in Turkestan, may have favored real autonomy for the Muslim peoples of the region in theory, he was not willing to countenance an autonomy that would threaten the unity of the Soviet regime and the centralized rule of the Communist Party (Rywkin 32).

Following these political concessions came a burgeoning Soviet military presence in Turkestan. Eventually, Soviet and local leaders increasingly came to realize that the coupling of military escalation with political half-measures would not bring order to the region. To this end, the administration overturned the most unpopular reforms: the waqf was returned, Koranic schools were legalized, shari’a courts were granted increased autonomy, taxes were cut by half, and food supplies to indigenous peoples were increased (Pipes 259; Rywkin 41; Olcott 360). Moreover, the introduction of the New Economic Policy permitted a return to private trade, and ended the forced requisitions of food and cotton, the origin of much resentment toward the Soviet regime (Pipes 259; Rywkin 41). Given these substantial concessions, much of the previous support for the Basmachi dissipated, and order was restored for the Communist Party in much of the region.

How did Red October, the Red Terror, and the Civil War lead to Stalin’s rule?

As we have seen, the Bolshevik seizure of power gave rise to the Red Terror and the Civil War. According to Maximov, the “entire country was turned into a prison” so that Bolshevik control of the State would persist (192, emphasis in original). The Reds never once tried to negotiate peaceful settlement of conflicts during the Civil War or thereafter, but simply resorted to intimidation as based on the real threat of physical annihilation by means of the Red Army and the CheKa plus its successor, the GPU (State Political Administration) (179, 207). In quashing all alternatives to Bolshevik hegemony, including striking workers and peasants in revolt, the Reds exhausted the sources of resistance that could have averted Stalin’s rise or reversed it shortly after its emergence. By 1922, the rate of State repression against socialists and anarchists lessened to some degree simply because most of them had by this time already been suppressed (213-223). In cultural terms, Lenin’s partner, N. K. Krupskaya, circulated a list of forbidden literature that included Kant, Plato, the Gospels, Schopenhauer, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, and Bakunin in 1923, demanding that libraries remove these authors and works from circulation immediately (221-2). Of course, the Nazis would publicly burn books by many of these same authors in the years to come.

As Paul Mattick argues, there is very little in Stalinism that did not also exist in Leninism or Trotskyism. Indeed, it is quite telling that a variation on the same boast Trotsky would make after the April 1918 raids against the anarchists—that “At last the Soviet government, with an iron broom, has rid Russia of Anarchism”would be used by Stalin’s hangmen to hail the purges against Trotskyists and Old Bolsheviks fifteen years later.

For further reading:

 

  • What lessons should we take from the Russian Revolution?

 

**Voline: pp. 156-61 = (It was fitting that…)

 

V: imp’ce of existing class orgs to facilitate the rev transition! (186-7**)

  • “the absence of these ‘receiving sets’” = principal reasons for A’s failures in RR!

 

  1. Only via popular revolution & masses (V 197-8**)

 

Insufficiency of destruction: V pp. 200-6** – esp. 205

 

“Let Russia serve as a lesson to all other nations, let the mountains of corpses and the oceans of blood shed by its people be a redeeming sacrifice for all nations, for the toilers of all countries” (M 334)

 

“Twenty-two years ago the resplendent rays of freedom brightened the vast expanses of Russia. Despotism, centuries old, vanished overnight. And the common people swept over the land like spring floods and washed away the debris of the old regime. Cleansed by a bloodless revolution Russia appeared before the astonished world in all the splendor of a bold, young, and vigorous country […].

 

Never before had such horizons of [solidarity], equality, and freedom been revealed. And the people who experienced those thrilling moments of history will never be wiped off the face of the earth; they can never make a perpetual peace with slavery […]. The Russian people have chosen their own road: the expansion of the program of the October Revolution under the political freedom of the February Revolution” (M 336)

 

Works Cited

 

Avrich, Paul. Kronstadt 1921 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970).

Bakunin, Mikhail. Statism and Anarchy, trans. and ed. Marshall Shatz (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Bloodstained: One Hundred Years of Leninist Counter-Revolution, ed. Friends of Aron Baron (Chico, California: AK Press, 2017).

Goodwin, James. Confronting Dostoevsky’s Devils (New York: Peter Lang, 2010).

Haugen, Arne. The Establishment of National Republics in Soviet Central Asia (New

York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

Maximov, G. P. The Guillotine at Work: Twenty Years of Terror in Russia (Chicago: Globus Printing, 1979 [1940]).

Olcott, Martha B. “The Basmachi or Freeman’s Revolt in Turkestan 1918-24.” Soviet Studies 33.3 (July 1981): 352-69.

Pipes, Richard. The Formation of the Soviet Union (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

Posadskii, A. V. Девятнадцатый, зеленый… («Зеленое» движение в годы Гражданской войны в России) (Saratov: Publikatsiya RFFI, 2016).

Rywkin, Michael. Moscow’s Muslim Challenge: Soviet Central Asia (Armonk, NY:

M.E. Sharpe, 1990).

Skirda, Alexandre. Nestor Makhno: Anarchy’s Cossack, trans. Paul Sharkey (Oakland: AK Press, 2004).

Voline, The Unknown Revolution (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1975 [1947]).

 

Recommended Statements and Memoirs

 

 

 

  • Memoirs of Peasant Tolstoyans in Soviet Russia, trans. and ed. William Edgerton (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993)

 

 

Recommended Films

 

  • October, dir. Sergei Eisenstein (1928)
  • From Tsar to Lenin, dir. Herman Axelbank (1937)
  • Doctor Zhivago, dir. David Lean (1965)
  • Reds, dir. Warren Beatty (1981)
  • Red in Blue, dir. Thibout Bertrand (2017)

 

 

Tags: Russiarevolution1917Black Rose Anarchist Federationcategory: Essays
Categories: News

Sprout Distro: Zines & Pamphlets Published in October 2017

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 18:48

via Sprout Distro

This is our semi-monthly round-up of various zines and pamphlets published within the broad anarchist space. Each month, we try to keep an eye out for what’s new and post them here. If there is something that we have missed, please contact us. As always, we encourage people to read these zines, share them with friends, print off extra copies and leave them in places where people will pick them up, use them to start reading groups, etc.

Also, after hearing from folks that some zines we have included in past write-ups have disappeared from the Internet, we are going to mirror PDFs on Archive.org. You can get all of the PDFs from past write-ups at https://archive.org/details/ZineArchive

Zines & Pamphlets Published in October 2017 The Devil’s Night: On the Ungovernable Spirit of Halloween


This zine is a an updated version of an article that was originally published in Mask Magazine. It outlines a history of Halloween as resistance to the dominant order. Beginning with its origins in 1000 BCE to the present, Halloween has always embodied a spirit of disorder. The zine explores Halloween and how it has been celebrated into the present and its relationship to the dominant order. It’s a solid example of how a historical narrative can be written to counter the dominant order.

Download the PDF

Of Indiscriminate Attacks and Wild Reactions


This is a zine-formatted version of a long essay criticizing Individualists Tending Towards the Wild (ITS) and the so-called “eco-extremist” tendency. It engages closely with many of the recent texts coming out of those circles, especially those contained in the journal Atassa. There criticisms are many and varied and far too many are voiced to be able to easily summarize them here. The essay is worth reading as it highlights some of the many problems with that tendency. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of this text is its willingness to engage with these ideas without resorting the usual trappings of leftism. Indeed, they call for a different form of anarchy that is anti-civilization and anti-colonial, arguing that such a turn can be made without embracing eco-extremism.

Download the PDF

KSL Bulletin #91/92


This is a double issue of the “KSL Bulletin”, a publication of the Kate Sharpley Library. This double issue has a feature on “pages from British anarchist history.” There’s some interesting stuff: an article on the “Stop the City” demonstrations in London in the 1980s, several letters debating the Miner’s Strike, and an article titled “Crass and Class War in the Thatcher Years.” It continues to be a useful source for obscure anarchist history.

Download the PDF

Anarchist Wallpaper #3


While not a exactly a zine, this anarchist wallpaper – essentially a timely poster designed to be pasted around the Netherlands – is an interesting experiment in counter-information. This edition features a lengthy critique of the surveillance state and information about supporting an anarchist who was sentenced to over 2 years for their actions at the G20 protests in Germany. A brief excerpt:

“You are being watched; on the street, at the train station, on social media, through your phone calls and e-mail correspondence. The state and its collaborators desire total control, whether you’ve ‘done something’ or not, everyone is a suspect.”

Download the PDF

Lexicon Series


These four pamphlets were originally published as an intervention in the Occupy movement that took off across the United States in late 2011. They were produced by the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) that “aimed to convert words into politically helpful tools—for those already engaged in a politics from below as well as the newly approaching—by offering definitional understandings of commonly used keywords.” The pamphlets cover “Anarchism,” “Colonialism,” “Gender”, “Power,” and “White Supremacy.”

Download the PDF

The Transmetropolitan Review #7


This is the latest issue of The Transmetropolitan Review an anarchist newspaper out of Seattle. As one would expect, this issue features a lot of analysis on what is happening in Seattle, with a lot of focus on the dynamics and fault lines that are being drawn as the city embraces the technology companies Amazon and Facebook while most people can’t afford to live in the city. Alongside these articles, there’s a history of the “SeaFair” celebration of Seattle and updates on anti-fascist organizing in the region.

Download the PDF

Paper Chained #1


This is the first issue of a publication out of Australia that focuses on giving voice to those affected by incarceration, whether they be prisoners, ex-prisoners, or family members of prisoners. It’s similar to the many prison newsletters and zines that have been coming out over the past few years. It’s definitely an interesting project that offers a helpful glimpse into how folks are engaging with anti-prison work in places outside the United States.

Download the PDF

Gay Plants #1


This is the first issue of a zine exploring the relationship between queer (anti)-politics and and plants/herbalism. From the FAQ in the issue:

“This is a zine for queer and trans people who have relationships with plants. That is to say, who relate to or interact with them in some way. Perhaps while healing ourselves. Hopefully while becoming stronger (or, to echo the title of a soon-to-be-published book that we like the sound of, ‘Becoming Dangerous’). Definitely in the process of decentring, questioning or ‘queering’ the human.”

Download the PDF

Atubes October 2017


This is the most recent issue of “Atubes”, a semi-monthly publication produced by AnarchistNews.org that collects articles and commentary published on the website with the goal of “illustrating some of the breadth of anarchist thinking.” This issue is almost entirely comments reprinted from the website.

Download the PDF

The Fenix Trial: Charges Dropped; State Attorney Appealed


This zine is a set of reflections and updates on the Fenix case in the Czech Republic which was a multi-year court battle targeting 5 anarchists. The authors reflect on the case, as shown in this quick excerpt:

“In cases like the Fenix, it is necessary to understand what this is really about. From the very beginning, we said that the police is not primarily after long imprisonments of single anarchists. The Repressive units are not afraid of us alone, nor they dont’t fear of Martin, Peter, Sasha, Ales, Katarína, Radka, Igor, Lukas, Ales and the other defendants. What scares them is that more and more people would come out by identifying with our ideas, especially if they start using a wider variety of tactics. The protectors of the status quo invest a lot of strengths, energy and resources to keep people in the belief that this is the freedom they dream for.”

Download the PDF

Tags: Sprout distrozinespamphletscategory: Projects
Categories: News

The Best Years of Our Lives [Legendary documentary on riots in Greece during the 90s]

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 18:46

Historic riot documentary in relation to the dynamic way of protesting in Greece during the nineties produced by Chaos Ltd.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5JouWSbPNI

category: International
Categories: News

TOTW: Privacy

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 22:43

As many of you know we at https://anarchistnews.org have attempted to preserve your privacy since our founding. The core server does not maintain logs (except when troubleshooting and then they are removed), the Drupal software at the heart of @news has the Indymedia log clearing plugin installed (and removes logs every 20 minutes), we, as a rule, try to remove legal name information. Our question is, does anyone care? I know a few diehard technophiles will jump in and talk about how -their- privacy is the most important thing they own and we are fools to even entertain any other option but is it true?

As far as we can tell, a lot more anarchy talk (which is at the heart of this project) is happening on Facebook than here. Even as we have become more balanced (and not run by one person) their seems to be an increasingly engaged audience that only talks about changing in the world in the most heavily surveilled Internet space every constructed. Yes, there are outliers but many (if not most) users of the Internet seem perfectly fine giving up their privacy for ease of use and lack of friction.

Does this mean that our goals of a broad conversation are misplaced (because corporations are going to be better web designers than DIY projects)? or does it mean that, perhaps, privacy is a bourgeois conceit that makes no sense in this new world we live in?

Tags: totwtotw. privacyInternetsocietycategory: Other
Categories: News

Texts on the recent repression against autonomous media projects in France

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 17:25

From Bordered by Silence

Translator's intro:
Over the past couple of months, there have been several acts of repression aimed at autonomous media project in the territory controlled by the French state. Below are two translated texts dealing with this.

The first discusses criminal charges brought against an anarchist comrade for texts published on the long-running anarchist website cettesemaine.info. This site recently decided to stop publishing, while making clear that it is not because of the repression they face, but rather with the limits of counter-info projects and dissatisfaction with how much importance the internet is given in the anarchist space. The comrade's trial is this Wednesday, November 8, in Paris.

The second is from Indymedia Nantes about their decision to ignore a legal demand from the French cybercrime division ordering them to remove communiques about attacks and announcing contingency plans in case their site is blocked in the coming days.

This repression follows on the German government's recent decision to shut down Indymedia Linksunten and in a context in France where the current government has bypassed the usual democratic steps to write parts of the State of Emergency (that has been in effect for a year and a half) permanently into criminal law. Some see this as a broadening of the repressive measures developed for use against Islamist groups to include anarchists and social movements.

As an anarchist involved in counter-info projects, as an anarchist period, I feel solidarity with the comrades at Indymedia Nantes and especially with the person being dragged before a judge this week in Paris. Fuck all courts and the world that needs them. One way of showing this solidarity is to share information about the situation and to make plans for how we can continue communicating in a context of increasing repression, while never forgetting that solidarity means attack.

A Dinner and Discussion about a Trial against a Text Calling for a Dinner and Discussion
Published in various places. Translated from https://attaque.noblogs.org/post/2017/10/27/paris-31-oct-apero-discussion-autour-du-proces-contre-le-texte-dappel-a-un-apero-discussion/

A comrade will be going to trial Wednesday, November 8th in the Paris Superior Court (TGI Paris). Let's get together on Tuesday October 31 at 7pm at the CICP to discuss how to continue spreading words of solidarity with acts of resistance that speak to us. [1]

On May 18 2016, a police vehicle was burned in the street while it was in use, sending back against the state a bit of the violence that we all experience every day. On February 16, 2017, nine days after a comrade was arrested in Montreuil in this case, a text calling for a dinner and discussion was printed, spread around, and published on Indymedia Nantes. The text went around widely, notably on the site cettesemaine.info (published on February 17) [2]. On April 26, 2017 a comrade had their home searched and was charged with having posted the text on cettesemaine [3]. His trial will take place on Wednesday November 8 in the Paris Superior Court, at 1:30 in room 17.

Two passages in this callout, connected to an attack that cheered up many people, are concerned by the charges. They are the following sentences: “We don't ask for justice just like we don't speak of guilt or innocence, because we hate the justice system as much as we do the police and the order they protect. Instead, let's spread disorder and flames everywhere these scumbags poison our lives!”; and “For the first, second, and third car burned, we all love grilled pig!”

Though the justice system chose to pursue charges under Journalistic law and against a particular internet site, it's solidarity that is under attack. A solidarity that defends action, without political or union mediation and far from the supposed legitimacy of the media. This solidarity lets actions and ideas resonate together. This repression is a way of putting pressure much more broadly and trying to freak people out. Just like when several websites receive emails threatening to block them within 24 hours if they don't take down the communique for the arson at the Grenoble gendarme station, which was also in solidarity with those accused for the Quai de Valmy [4].

While the justice system has condemned seven people to years of prison, solidarity continues. Let's get together on Tuesday October 31 at the CICP to talk about how to continue spreading words in solidarity with acts of revolt that speak to us, without compromising on the need to be open about our ideas and without hiding behind the defense of freedom of speech.

Solidarity is attack!

Endnotes

1] Didn't translate this in time for the callout for discussion to be useful..Also, the original posting got the day of the week wrong for the trial, but it was later corrected on some sites.

2] The text in question is available here: https://attaque.noblogs.org/post/2017/02/17/montreuil-apero-discussion-autour-de-laffaire-de-lattaque-dune-voiture-de-flics-le-18-mai-2016/

3] After the raid of their home, a text appeared on cette-semaine in response: https://cettesemaine.info/breves/spip.php?article2279 . Here's an excerpt:

Against state terrorism and democratic totalitarianism, it's no longer a question of either ideas or actions in isolation. Rather, it's how the two can once again resonate together, in a subversive thrust towards a freedom beyond measure. A freedom that requires the destruction of all obstacles that the world of domination and exploitation places in front of it. … Regardless of who did or wrote what. What we know though, is that there is no truce in the social war and that the best defense is attack.

4] The burned police car in Paris mentioned a few paragraphs up was on Quai de Valmy
“Request by the hundreds, actions by the thousands.” A new attack on Indymedia Nantes
This text was published on Indymedia Nantes on November 1: https://nantes.indymedia.org/articles/39007

At the end of September, we and our friends at Grenoble Indymedia had to take down a text following a request from the OCLCTIC (the French Central Office of the Fight against Crime Involving Information or Communication Technology) [1]. Our first reaction was to tell ourselves that this was an attempt by the state to set an example that would scare counter-info sites and mean that these kinds of claims were no longer published.

As we explained in an interview with our Italian comrades from the project Autistici/ventati [2], the removal decision wasn't easy. There were several reasons for this choice:

“First, by default, because we had trouble co-ordinating, since we weren't all reachable within 24 hours at that time. Second, because it's already been the case that these kinds of blockages also render all the subdomains inaccessible, no just the targetted site, meaning it could have blocked all Indymedia sites in France. Further, because we wanted to remain accessible to the largest number of people, on the non-Tor web, so that all the other content we host was still easily accessible. Finally, because we weren't confident that there would be a movement of support sufficient to counter the threats from the police, seeing how little support there was in France when Indymedia Linksunten was censored [3].”

We were sharply criticized for this decision, and on the one hand, this is perfectly understandable. But we also feel that Indymedia Grenoble's analysis of the situation describes our position too [4]. We are first and foremost a collective that operates by consensus and not a private blog, which makes a real difference when it comes to the speed at which we can make decision. In this situation, the small group of people available at the time had to make the choice to not risk having the site dissapear, without knowing the opinion of other members of the collective.

We also know that this was only a first battle and that this kind of situation could easily recur.

Well, it's happened, since on October 26 we received another removal order for the communique claiming the arson of several municipal police vehicles in Clermont-Ferrand [5]. And we weren't surprised when we received a third order in the night of October 31, this time demanding the removal of the communique claiming the arson against vehicles in the Meylan gendarme station [6]. All this at a time when, next week, a comrade will be in court over a callout posted on the site cettesemaine.info. As at each moment of repression against free media, we show our full support for this person!

It's clear that the OCLCTIC seems to believe that from now on a simple email will make us take down any content that upsets their superiors. But if we choose to participate in an independent media project like Indymedia, it's of course to make an open publishing platform available for all people and collectives in struggle. We are not the producers of this content. And that's why we have decided to not take the articles down this time. It is thus possible that we will be blocked in France in the coming days... or not.

In case IMC Nantes dissapears from the web, don't panic! Don't call the gendarmerie, or at least do it at night, having taken the time to secure your means of communication: it seems that from here on, everything can be used to justify the State of Emergency entering into common law. But we don't intend to serve as strawmen for their attempt.

In any case, it will still be possible to visit the site using Tor Browser. This can get around the blockages the state might impose. If you don't use it already, install it: it's quick and easy.

We will also be setting up new a domain name so that we stay accessible without Tor and will publish that address on the other sites in the Indymedia and Mutu networks.

Finally, Indymedia Nantes will always be available using Tor hidden service at the address http://3wirxietn4iktvf3.onion/

And of course, we are counting on all of you to make as much noise as possible about this situation to splatter flamby all over the walls [7]

Endnotes

1] The text in question was claiming an arson that substantially destroyed a police station in Grenoble. The OCLCTIC sent messages to several sites demanding that they remove the text within 24 hours. These requests were already judicial orders, meaning that the state could in theory immediately block access to the sites if the demand wasn't met. An Indy Nantes article about this is here: https://nantes.indymedia.org/articles/38602

2] This is the Italy-based collective responsible for, among other things, noblogs. The link to the interview is: https://cavallette.noblogs.org/2017/10/9214 and there is an English translation below the Italian. Here's a short quotation from the introduction: “What the OCLCTIC actually did was a real censorship effort, that (sadly) partially succeeded. Being under pressure, the admins of the websites were forced to delete the relevant URL. But, as it often happens in such cases, the removal of online content generates a proportional counter-reaction: the event elicited an uproar and the same post was immediately reposted by many other French counter-information websites that, by doing so, magnified its backlash. Yet, there is little reason to rejoice. What happened seems to be the first step for a gradual extension of the emergency laws that, after having struck unhindered for more than two years websites associated by local authorities to radical Islamist movements, now aims at wiping out any dissenting voice.”

3] Indymedia Linksunten was the largest independent media website in Germany and was shut down by the German state on August 25, 2017. Some details here: https://www.indymedia.org/el/2017/09/988285.shtml and here: https://itsgoingdown.org/german-government-shuts-indymedia-means/

4] Indymedia Grenoble released a response on October 6th to some of the criticism they received about their decision to pull the communique. The response is here: https://grenoble.indymedia.org/2017-10-06-Indymedia-Grenoble-Un-complement-d

A short quotation: We're presently working hard to find a better way to react when faced with future threats of this kind and to lay the ground work for other media projects who might come under this kind of pressure in coming days, even those projects that have been very critical of us. It's not a small matter and we'll certaintly keep you posted about it in the weeks and months to come.

5] Communique is here: https://nantes.indymedia.org/articles/38946

In the night of Monday the 23rd and Tuesday the 24th [of October], we entered a parking garage near downtown Clermont-Ferrand where three municipal police vehicles were parked. We put some fire-starter on the front tires of two of the three vehicles, assuming that the flames would spread, which was proven correct, as the media describes three vehicles destroyed by the fire.

6] Communique is here: https://nantes.indymedia.org/articles/38996 It's a particularly good text, positioning the attack as also being a way to destory gender, especially for people socialized as women. An English translation is available here: https://attaque.noblogs.org/post/2017/11/03/meylan-the-desire-to-end-the-logic-of-victimization-by-creating-strong-affinity-groups-attacking-an-empowerment-of-praxis/

7] Flanby/Flamby is a pudding that comes in plastic pots. Indy Nantes is referring to this cartoon https://nantes.indymedia.org/system/photo/2017/09/22/19052/flamby-effect.jpg where you try to clean up escaped pudding with the baseball bat of censorship, causing it to spread

Tags: FranceRepressionindymediacettesemainemediacategory: International
Categories: News

Anews podcast - episode 36

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 01:26

https://podcast.anarchistnews.org/index.php/2017/11/05/anews-podcast-epi...

Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 36 for November 3. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
Editorial: Recent Conflicts
TOTW - Reading

This week this podcast was
* sound edited by Linn O'Mable
* editorial by @muse
* written by jackie
* narrated by chisel and a friend
* Thanks to Aragorn! and Ariel for their help with the topic of the week
* Contact us at podcast@anarchistnews.org
To learn more

Introduction to anarchism: http://anarchy101.org
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Categories: News

TFSRadio: A Conversation with Cascadia Forest Defenders

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 23:45

Download This Episode

For a 59 minute long, radio clean version for syndication purposes, please visit the archive.org collection.
Cascadia Forest Defenders
This week William had the opportunity to speak with someone who works closely with the group Cascadia Forest Defenders, which is based around Eugene Oregon. This crew has been opposing logging in the Willamette National Forest, and was recently driven out of the camp by forest workers and employees of Seneca Jones Timber Company. We talk about this incident, plus much much more in the way of contextualizing and re-contextualizing forest defense in a time of climate change, plus some important things to keep in mind if you are looking to join established political movements like this. More on this group, this struggle, and the many ways to get involved can be found at forestdefensenow.com

To follow up on something that I said toward the beginning of the interview, about logging around the Asheville area, there were plans in place to log in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests as of 2014. The stated reasons for this logging were environmental and maintenance minded in nature, but it's thought that those endeavors would help literally pave the way for future commercial logging by establishing a roadway system through the forest.

As promised, here are some links for further reading:

USFS proposes opening most of Pisgah-Nantahla National Forest to logging
Forest Service logging plan draws criticism
Logging on the Nantahala and Pisgah
Logging in Pisgah, Nantahala forests hanging in the balance
Defend J20, Upcoming Trials
The J20 inauguration arrestees case is starting on November 15th. There is a call out for court support including note takers, as well as folks to fill the court in their finest black dress clothes, also for fundraising and any legal support you can muster. For a really good article on the topic, check out https://itsgoingdown.org/j20-case-need-know/ . Despite the good news that 2 of the Felony "Riot" and "Conspiracy To Riot" charges being dropped down to Misdemeanors this case still has a long way to go.
And a few local announcements from Blue Ridge ABC
For those in the Asheville area coming up Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross has 3 events we'd like to share with you. Firstly, today from 5pm to 7:30pm BRABC will be hosting it's monthly Political Prisoner Letter Writing Night. The first Sunday of every month, join BRABC, who'll provide stationary, stamps, pens, camaraderie and the addresses of political prisoners with upcoming birthdays you can write to. Or, just take the time to hang, or write to someone you know behind bars. This month, they'll also be showing TROUBLE #7 about anarchist disaster relief in the Western Hemisphere plus maybe another film.

The pre-registration for BRABC's benefit Ping Pong Tournament is coming up fast. If you wanna play and help earn some money for legal support coffers, send an email to blueridgeabc@riseup.net by November 12th and then show up November 15th at 6:30pm at the Standard Pizza at 755 Biltmore Ave in South Asheville to battle for a good cause. If space allows and you miss the pre-register, show up the day of and there might be a spot.

On Friday, November 17th at 9pm at The Mothlight in West Asheville, get ready for a #ItsARiot benefit comedy show for autonomous disaster relief efforts in Mexico City and Oaxaca in the aftermath of 3 deadly and destructive earthquakes this year and an incredibly inept government response. Door donations will go to some of the folks on the ground in those cities. The night of comedy will be hosted by Moira Goree, featuring the stylings of Kira Magcalen, Chesney Goodson and a special
guest. More info on these and other events from Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross can be found at https://brabc.blackblogs.org
Sole and Bursts Podcast Eminent
Also, keep an eye on our website, thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org, this week for a special podcast conversation between Bursts and the anarchist hip hop artist, podcaster and rad dad outta Denver, Sole. Should be dropping Tuesday. We talked about Channel Zero Network, about prisoner support, the J20 inauguration case, the Situationists and a bunch of other topics. You can hear some of Sole's work including his podcasts at his website.

Show playlist here

Tags: tfsradiotfsrThe Final Strawcascadiaforest defenceweekly podcastcategory: Projects
Categories: News

Crossword Puzzle #24: AK Press

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 19:03

This weeks crossword puzzle is on AK Press.

Download it here: https://anarchistnews.org/crossword/crossword24.pdf

***

From LBC about the book:

For those anarchistnews fans who miss Worker's acerbic and insightful bon mots on modern-day anarchy and anarchists, here is a fix (however temporary) for you.

Fifty crossword puzzles of occasionally ludicrous difficulty (there are scattered puff questions throughout also, for those of you, like me, who are terrible at these kind of games) are featured for your education and amusement.

Anarchistnews.org is the most popular, utilized, and non-sectarian news source pertaining to anarchists in North America. Its open commenting system continues to be one of the few spaces in which anarchists, nationally and internationally, converse about topics of the day, challenge each other, and critically engage with a wide variety of issues and events.

Worker retired from running the site after eleven years... Since then they have reflected on their time in the daily trenches of running the site, and this book is the result. These crossword puzzles speak to the years of comment threads, the ridiculousness and wonderfulness of the anarchist space in North America, and finally the absurdity of working with cantankerous, stubborn, and self-righteous people by way of essay or manifesto.

These puzzles should probably be done by a reading group or a group of friends. They are supposed to make you think, laugh, and perhaps smack your head. A more perfect metaphor for North American anarchism cannot be found.

https://littleblackcart.com/books/culture/workers-book-of-50-sectarian-c...

***

[ Here are the solutions! Don’t peek!: http://ardentpress.com/crosswords/ ]

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Categories: News

Other Rojavas: Echoes of the Free Commune of Barbacha

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 17:28

From Crimethinc

The autonomous region of Rojava has gained international visibility as a beacon of struggle against the Islamic State and other forms of autocratic power, an experiment in which many anarchists are currently participating. Yet Rojava is not the only region in which a struggle for self-determination has expanded to open a path towards total liberation. In north Africa, in the region of Kabylia, an ethnic minority oppressed by racism and state oppression has initiated in a series of revolts comparable to what the Kurds have accomplished in Rojava and the Zapatistas in Chiapas. Throughout decades of struggle, they have established zones of autonomy and built bridges to others in revolt, in hopes of bringing about “a genuine emancipatory social revolution.” Read on to learn about this underreported struggle.



Demonstration in Kabylia, April 20, 2014, commemorating the Amazigh Springs of 1980 and 2001.

Translators’ Introduction

By Michael Desnivic and Habiba Dhirem-Kasper.

This translation has allowed us to share a recent resistance movement that, until now, was completely unknown to English-speaking countries and still largely unknown outside of Algeria. The author, a French writer, filmmaker and documentarian, Matouf Tarlacrea, was very happy to see its release into English. In 2014, he traveled to a commune called Barbacha in northern Algeria with some friends for two days and collected personal stories and documents to present “Échos de la Commune libre de Barbacha” as both an article and short documentary video. Matouf’s specialty is primarily in resistance movements around the world. His grandparents are from northern Algeria and he currently lives in Toulouse, France and is active in supporting CREA (Campagne de Réquisition, d’Entraide et d’Autogestion or Requisition Campaign for Mutual Aid and Self-Management), a squatted communal building inhabited by people of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds united under one common banner: the total and complete rejection of all authority.

Kabylia or Kabylie is a region in northern Algeria just east of the country’s capital city Algiers, inhabited primarily by the indigenous Kabyle people. Outside of Belgium and France, Berbers and Kabyles are fairly unknown to Westerners: Algeria and all of North Africa are imagined to be exclusively populated by Arabs. The Kabyle people are an ethnic division of the Berbers, among many other Berber ethnic groups. Most Kabyles and other Berber ethnic groups currently speak Arabic, Algeria’s official language, as well as regional Berber dialects; French, introduced via colonialism, is also common, especially in business and education.

Who are the Berbers? They are the original inhabitants of North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia) and parts of West Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger). But they did not call themselves Berbers: like the names of most indigenous peoples (e.g. “Indians”), this name was given to them by invaders. It comes from the Greek word barbarous and the Latin cognate barbarus; root of “barbarian,” originally denoting a person with a primitive civilization. The original inhabitants of this region called themselves Imazighen, which roughly translates to “free people,” known individually as Amazigh (masculine) and as Tamazight (feminine), who speak the Tamazight language. Their land was known as Tamazgha, renamed the “Maghreb” by the Arabs. In Antiquity, the people of this land had close relations with Ancient Greeks and Romans.

As with many ancient people, contact with outside cultures alternated between friendship and hostility, with the Berbers playing the roles of both conquerors and conquered. Their contribution to the developing cultures of Antiquity and the Middle Ages has left a mark on African and even European culture (for example, historians suspect St. Augustine may have been an ethnic Berber). More recently, Situationist International cofounder Guy Debord noted in his 1955 article “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography” that the term “psychogeography” was coined by “an illiterate Kabyle” he and his friends had known.

Algeria has a rich history of revolt against the various forms of oppression and tyranny that have menaced it, including French colonialism and theocratic autocracy. Algerian-born Albert Camus noted the immense racism the Kabyles experienced through socioeconomic exclusion, extreme poverty and famines instigated by the French settler-colonialists in his essay “Misère de la Kabylie.” In We Are Imazighen, Fazia Ailel states, “Berbers were denounced as a creation of France” as a means to intensify discrimination from the dominant Arab ethnic group. Generation after generation has resisted this racism. The struggles against discrimination and colonialism led to struggles against other forms of oppression as well. As is to be expected, throughout history, revolutionary attempts in Algeria to overthrow dictatorial systems of colonization and, later, state bureaucracy have consistently been co-opted by various “liberators” attempting to secure power for themselves via political, economic, military, or religious leadership roles. This is as true on the African continent as it has been in Europe and Asia.

Kabyles in particular have a long, vast history in avoiding authority and hierarchy, rejecting French colonialism and bureaucracy, by implementing local village assemblies; government in itself has mostly been alien to them. In his 1902 book Mutual Aid, Peter Kropotkin noted the rejection of authority that seemed to be imbedded in Kabyle culture.

“The Kabyles know no authority whatever besides that of the djemmâa, or folkmote of the village community. All men of age take part in it, in the open air, or in a special building provided with stone seats. and the decisions of the djemmâa are evidently taken at unanimity: that is, the discussions continue until all present agree to accept, or to submit to, some decision. There being no authority in a village community to impose a decision, this system has been practiced by mankind wherever there have been village communities, and it is practiced still wherever they continue to exist, i.e., by several hundred million men (sic) all over the world.”

He adds:

“Mutual support permeates the life of the Kabyles, and if one of them, during a journey abroad, meets with another Kabyle in need, he is bound to come to his aid, even at the risk of his own fortune and life; if this has not been done, the djemmâa of the man who has suffered from such neglect may lodge a complaint, and the djemmâa of the selfish man will at once make good the loss. We thus come across a custom which is familiar to the students of the mediaeval merchant guilds. Every stranger who enters a Kabyle village has right to housing in the winter, and his horses can always graze on the communal lands for twenty-four hours. But in case of need he can reckon upon an almost unlimited support. Thus, during the famine of 1867-68, the Kabyles received and fed every one who sought refuge in their villages, without distinction of origin. In the district of Dellys, no less than 12,000 people who came from all parts of Algeria, and even from Morocco, were fed in this way. While people died from starvation all over Algeria, there was not one single case of death due to this cause on Kabylian soil. The djemmâas, depriving themselves of necessaries, organized relief, without ever asking any aid from the Government, or uttering the slightest complaint; they considered it as a natural duty. And while among the European settlers all kind of police measures were taken to prevent thefts and disorder resulting from such an influx of strangers, nothing of the kind was required on the Kabyles’ territory: the djemmâas needed neither aid nor protection from without.”


Barbacha’s residents march against repression, Béjaïa, April 9, 2013. The banner reads “Down with repression.”


On July 5, 1962, Algeria was granted independence after nearly 8 years of war and 132 years (exactly to the day) of colonization. The brutal war, depending on the sources, left around 400,000 to 1.5 million dead. Confusion, fear, disillusionment and atrocity seem to be inevitable byproducts of war, and the end of the occupation (as with the end of so many) led to the rise of despotic leadership.

But after the colonial forces left, something unusual happened. Coming to power at the end of the War, the workers and peasants of the country decided to implement autogestion or self-management. Quickly, the working class took over much of the industry and the peasants much of the countryside. Thus the Algerian War of Independence suddenly became the Algerian Revolution.

Algeria’s self-management revolution (1962-65) united the entire working class, Berber and Arab, as well as even ethnic French pieds-noirs1 to build a socialist (some might even say “libertarian socialist”) revolution that shook off the dead weight of political parties, including the Leninism and Stalinism that numerous bureaucrats were struggling to implement in Algeria and throughout most of the freshly decolonized countries. The struggle of the Algerian workers, peasants, and students was consistently hammered and wedged between various ideologies: religious conservatism, Leninism (or “vanguardism”), capitalism, nationalism, ethnic identity. Unsatisfied by each of these, an Algerian proletariat—people who had not read Marx and Engels, brought a communist party to power, or possessed any interest in centralizing power and the means of production in the hands of the State—had successfully done what socialists in the Cold War era were bent on preventing working people from doing: taking power for themselves.

“After independence, the Algerians turned to socialism, which to them meant self-management.” (Autogestion ouvrière et pouvoir politique en Algérie (1962-1965), Monique Laks, 1970.) Revolutionaries in Algeria were quickly superseding Marxism and its apologists. Ukraine, Germany, Russia, France, and especially Spain are historically seen as the bastions of anarchist and libertarian socialist insurrection by means of self-management, especially in the form of workers’ councils. The revolutionary reorganization of society got underway in Algeria along similar lines, with far less influence from Western thinkers, pushing itself to challenge both state control and private ownership of capital.

With an uncertain socio-economic future in post-independence, the new rulers of Algeria appeared inept. After the war, the General Union of Algerian Workers (Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens or UGTA) issued the following appeal: “…our battle is soon going to take a new form… The resumption of economic activity will allow the workers to take the initiative to be present everywhere, to participate, to direct and control the economy of our country.” The UGTA continued an appeal to the newly-formed government and the French former owners of the farms and factories to reopen them. The UGTA stated that if there is “a negative answer, the government must organize a system of management by the workers.” The request fell on deaf ears at first, but workers’ self-management continued to come into discussion and was granted official status by Ahmed Ben Bella, the first President of Algeria, in September 28, 1962 in his inaugural speech (plausibly, however, to outstrip his bourgeois competitors with his bureaucracy). After Ben Bella was overthrown by Boumédienne in a coup d’état, self-management and the workers’ movement were targeted by the new regime that blended Islamic fundamentalism and technocratic state-planning, destroying self-management in a few years’ time.


Barbacha, February 2014.


The movements of the “Arab Spring” were particularly intense in Algeria; but they were proceeded by several Berber Springs. In 1980, a lecture on Kabyle poetry by Moulod Mammeri was banned at the University of Tizi-Ouzo. This sparked the first spontaneous Berber Spring, a series of riots and strikes aimed at demanding status for Tamazight as a national or official language, and culminating in other attempts to change Algerian society. Another Berber Spring broke out in 1988. A civil war erupted in 1991 and lasted until 2002.

On April 18, 2001, an event occurred that again put Algeria and the Kaybles in the international spotlight. Guermah Massinissa, an eighteen-year-old high school student arrested in Tizi-Ouzou, a city in Kabylia, was shot by police while in custody under very mysterious circumstances. Rioting broke out almost immediately, causing what was dubbed the “Black Spring.” As often occurs in uprisings against State-sponsored murder, the entirety of the society and everything it produced was called into question. A movement emerged for an autonomous Kabylia.

This revolt elucidated what the insurrectionaries were ultimately attempting to do and what they wanted to communicate to Algeria and the rest of the world: they refused to be led or dominated by anyone, French, Arab, or Kabyle.

Men, women, and children all over Kabylia participated in this third Berber Spring. The common slogan chanted was “You can’t kill us, we are already dead!” (Somewhat more intimidating than “We are the 99 percent.”) Kabyle women were particularly active in the revolt, voicing their disgust against the possible State-sponsored murder of their brothers, husbands, boyfriends, fathers, and sons.

Government offices, courts, police stations—all repressive infrastructures of the State—were put to the torch. Showing a thoroughgoing critique of all the different things that restricted their liberation, the rioters went after the buildings of political parties and Islamic fundamentalists. The Islamists, whose ideological terror paralleled the State’s autocracy culminating in the deaths of countless Algerians, saw their meeting places turned to ash. By the end of the month, the entire region of Kabylia was in total revolt. Every attempt at negotiation with the Algerian government was rejected by the communities of resistance. Police and Islamic fundamentalists were consistently driven out of villages and cities. Labor unions and left-wing parties were shunned as all attempts to take authority were considered traitorous, including voting in the elections.

The people of the region recreated the aarch (similar to Kropotkin’s aforementioned system of the djemmâa), a method of coordinating the needs of the community with revocable delegates from the village assemblies (see Wolfi Landstreicher’s Autonomous Self-Organization and Anarchist Intervention). Via aarchs, the community runs decisions by consensus and assembly. By rejecting hierarchy, it purges the old Algeria—and the old world itself—that asserted its assault on freedom through the police state and Islamic fundamentalism.



Habiba’s father, an ethnic Kabyle, was married with two daughters during the Algerian War of Independence. He was a harki, something he did not like to talk about. It was a poignant subject in their household. Why would anyone choose to fight against his country and people? Wearing these two badges of shame, a harki and a Kabyle, was not easy.

The word harki has generally come to mean “traitor”: in the Algerian context it refers to an Algerian soldier who fought on the French side of the war—sometimes not by choice. Habiba’s father was told his family would be killed if he did not help the armed forces of France keep Algeria as their colony. In return for fighting at their side against the anti-colonial forces, he was promised asylum in France. He found a new life in France, where Habiba was born. Obviously, the transition wasn’t easy for the family. They would have preferred that their country regain its independence from France, and it did, but they never were able to savor the victory. As a child, Habiba visited Algeria with her mother, but things were not the same as her mother had left it. As for Habiba, the experience was very disappointing. She had hoped for acceptance but instead encountered disdain from children in the village her mother grew up in. Being called a dirty Arab back in France was normal, almost expected, but to be called a dirty French in the land of her ancestors left her disheartened and confused.

It was a few years before she understood what it all meant. She was the daughter of a traitorous harki, a man who had betrayed his country and fled with hundreds of thousands of others. Or at least that was what those kids were told she was.

After that trip she had a better understanding of where she came from and she was never the same again. Everything she thought she was came crumbling down. It was only after decades that she discovered her true background: her parents had been Arabized; they were Kabyles assimilated into the Arabic culture and language, and all her life she was made to believe she was part of a culture that deep down she knew she was never part of. Today she is proud to say that she is part of the Kabyle people, some of the most resilient and courageous people in North Africa. Today she hopes that the people of Kabylie will keep fighting for their rights, for their language and to regain their independence.

In translating this piece and presenting the existence of the movement in Barbacha to the English-speaking public, we strongly felt their struggle needed to be known to a wider audience. We did so not just simply to offer a mere news piece to enlighten the Anglosphere on the zeitgeist in northern Algeria, but to inspire others, to move people out of pessimism and fatalism, to show them resistance and change are not impossible. Furthermore, we do so for the people of Barbacha’s request for support and solidarity outside of Algeria, as they have stated plainly that they wish to unite with everyone across the world who yearn for freedom from oppression. We present this project to serve as outreach in order that their struggle might connect with other struggles against authoritarianism, hierarchy, capitalism, and racism.


Barbacha City Hall, blocked by the residents to prevent the installation of the “shameful alliance,” 2013.


Echoes of the Free Commune of Barbacha

“Échos de la commune libre de Barbacha,” by Matouf Tarlacrea (with the gracious help of Amazigh, Morgane, Da Taïeb, Mabrouk, and Da Elhamid) in Article 11, 2014. Translated from the French by Michael Desnivic and Habiba Dhirem-Kasper.

Barbacha is a small region in Kabylia, made up of 34 villages with 27,000 inhabitants. Since 2012, the people there decided to forego holding the reins of municipal authority to instead develop diverse forms of self-management, notably via their Open General Assembly (OGA). Matouf Tarlacrea was there a few months ago accompanied by friends. He brings with him this collective story.

Echos de la Commune libre de Barbacha.


Barbacha—Iberbacen in Tamazight, the Berber language—is a region in Little Kabylia, Algeria, self-managed by its inhabitants since the end of 2012. “Barbacha is just a small hamlet left aside from all the treasures of Algeria,” says Da Taïeb, an elder of the Commune. “It’s a poor region located in a mountainous area. We have no trails or roads.”

As in other regions, the peasants and workers of Barbacha fight day by day to live a dignified life confronted with all the forms of exploitation and oppression imposed by the State and capitalism. But in Barbacha, something else has also created itself. The 27,000 residents of these 34 villages comprising the population of Iberbacen, effectively self-organized through the Open General Assembly (OGA), established a collectively-occupied building. “In Barbacha, we have created this house to protest against the system that crushes us endlessly. The system that governs us right now is rotten,” says Da Taïeb. He and a few others welcomed us in February 2014 with their story and showed us their archives.

Here are a few sketches of these roads drawn by the people of Barbacha—paths for all those who are fighting for emancipation all over the world.

A Tradition of Insubordination and Autonomy

The region of Barbacha has been a site of Berber resistance against all colonization as well as a place of continuous battles for Tamazight culture and language. This has been imbedded in the long history of the struggles of the Kabyle people for autonomy and independence. The region cultivates this with the methods of practicing mutual aid and solidarity, insubordination and insurrection that are passed down from generation to generation. “It’s a movement that was born in 1979. And this fight for culture, for language, for everything, continues. Because we are not [yet] independent!” says Da Elhamid, a welder in central Barbacha.

Like most parts of Kabylia, the region revolted in 2001. Among what was obtained were cultural rights, and those revolts allowed the inhabitants to eliminate numerous police stations and gendarmeries2 which were opposed to all forms of struggle and any autonomous social life.

On top of the harassment, the racketeering and the systematic brutalities, the Algerian State for a long time applied a strategy of tension based on murder and civilian abductions as a form of permanent counter-insurrection. Faced with an exceptional regime, the people did not give in. In 2001, they expelled the police and military forces in the Barbacha region and burned down their buildings. Mabrouk, an English teacher in the commune, explained that the population was doing without security services for thirteen years: no gendarmerie, no police. During those thirteen years, no crimes or infractions were committed.


Mabrouk, an English teacher.


Amazigh, a youth from the region, has determined that the gendarmerie “is of no use. On the contrary, it oppresses. It’s not there for our security. For twelve years, we organized ourselves in village committees. Each village assures its security by its own residents.” It is in this collective self-defense experiment that new forms of communal self-organization have been created. Mabrouk further explains, “We organized ourselves. Each village has someone responsible. And the people of these villages organize together. If there is an enemy that wishes to enter, we create a security post at night and we organize with everyone to help in teams.” He goes on to explain that after four years, people got in the habit of living without these security teams. “But as soon as there’s a problem, everyone will come together and organize and fight.” In Barbacha, there are not even State-run courts: justice is rendered on the traditional model of the aarchs, the councils of the wise.

The Shutdown of the Daïra3 and Its Replacement by the Open General Assembly

The direct conflict with the Algerian State and its structures grew even more divisive during the preparation of the municipal elections of November 2012. During this time, the Wali (governor) Hemmou Hmed Et-Touhami actually refused to register the PST,4 largely supported by the residents of Barbacha. They decided to fight so that the PST could be registered. And they won this cause. In the elections of November 29, the PST finally got 39% of the vote, with six out of fifteen elected. Clearly their list is the majority.

Except that the four other parties on the list formed an alliance to impose another mayor, Benmeddour Mahmoud, of the RCD. And this occurred despite the existence of a law declaring that a list that has obtained 35% of the vote can nominate the new mayor. The election was held even without the PST member list present, who had not even been notified of this. This “shameful alliance,” as Barbacha’s residents called it, united the RCD,5 the FLN,6 and the FFS,7 parties initially opposed to one another, in their struggle for state power.

The population of Barbacha rose up against this manipulation. They closed the Daïra, then city hall, and collectively requisitioned the local village hall in order to create the Axxam n Caâb8—the House of the People—where, since then, the Open General Assembly (OGA) of Barbacha’s villages meet. A banner hangs there: “Long live the struggle, for only struggle pays off.”

Within this assembly, only alcohol, drugs, and “lack of respect” are prohibited by collective decision. Da Taïeb explains how it operates: “As soon as there is a problem, we meet, we make decisions; our words matter. This is our strength, the law of the people. […] This house, we acquired it with our collective power. No one can shut it down, and here we speak of whatever we wish to speak of, we say whatever we want. Letting anyone step on our toes is out of the question.” The welder Da Elhamid adds, “Everyone has the right to speak. And the people there are there as volunteers. That is democracy, true democracy, because it comes from the people. […] We organize ourselves for marches, for contributions, for everything, everything, everything. We must always fight.”


Da Taïeb.


Mabrouk, the English teacher in his thirties, specifies that, “We fight against corruption, for the dignity of the people.” Faced with the “power of the State” which describes them as “a mafia of young people who spend their nights in a house,” Mabrouk states that the people that come to the Axxam n Caâb are “the peasants, the intellectuals, the artists.” “It is a place of one hundred percent freedom: there are no currents, neither religious nor political, inside this house; there are no ideas of the PST or any alliances with the FFS, only the ideas of the peasants and the inhabitants.”

After each assembly, someone is in charge of writing a communiqué that is dispatched to prisons, to citizens, and posted on all the walls of the commune. It is even sent to the security services, “Because we don’t do this behind closed doors!” says Mabrouk.

An excerpt of the very first bulletin of the OGA, broadcasted and posted in the villages of the commune states:

“We citizens, the men and women of the Commune of Barbacha, organized as an Open General Assembly, strongly reaffirm our rejection of Daho Ould Kablia’s9 instruction which opens the path to clientelism, and we consider the installation of the pseudo-mayor by decree of the Wali of Bgayet (Prefect of Béjaïa) dated December 17, 2012, to be annulled and invalidated. […] Furthermore, we hold the public powers and those elected in the so-called coalition responsible for the decay of this situation (blockading the Daïra and city hall, the treatment of communal workers, etc.). We reserve the right to create large-scale actions. […] LONG LIVE THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE! STAY IN SOLIDARITY! LONG LIVE THE STRUGGLE!”

-Communiqué No. 1 of the Open General Assembly of the Residents of Iberbacen, December 26, 2012.

Little by little, the Open General Assembly of the residents of Barbacha has replaced the centralized and authoritarian management of city hall. At first limiting itself to the struggle against the State, it extends itself, little by little, to different domains of collective life. A path to the basics has anchored in a unique history.

The Autonomy of Struggle and the Struggle for Autonomy

It’s in this battle against the installation of a fraudulent mayor by the State and the big political parties that the Commune of Barbacha creates self-organization. While the swindler mayor tries to settle in the PCA (the People’s Communal Assembly, Assemblée populaire communale, or “city hall”), accompanied by an attorney general, a crowd assembles a first time to prevent access. Resolutely determined to solve the problem, the residents decide to block all access to city hall. Hundreds of them, including activists from the FFS and the RCD, in disagreement with the elected parties, mobilize day and night, occupying and blocking all municipal services (the registry office, etc.) and prohibit the slightest meeting of these elected puppets.

“The interests of the Commune, which is in a state of stagnation, come before all other interests, and our interest today is to place Barbacha back on track; this can only happen by the resignation of all elected officials,” announces the second Communiqué of the OGA (December 30, 2012). Communiqué No. 3 points out the strategies of rottenness exercised by the State against the population to create divisions among those mobilized against them. This text calls for the dissolution of the PCA, the nomination of a temporary leader of the Daïra to manage administrative affairs, and a rally for January 5 at the headquarters of the Wilayah of Béjaïa. The assembly signed off, “To the peoples and populations of the world fighting for real sovereignty: may the year 2013 be a good and happy one of solidarity struggles and all that can be gained from them!”

To get to Béjaïa from Barbacha, it’s about 40 kilometers (25 miles). Not exactly next door. The demonstration of January 5, 2013 nevertheless unites over a thousand people. The protestors block the main road leading to Béjaïa to demand the organization of new elections. This demonstration marks the effective involvement of the residents of other communes in other Wilayahs. A solidarity even more valuable emerges knowing that legal proceedings would be charged against militants accused of blocking city hall.

Communiqué No. 4 shows that in the space of autonomous struggles, there emerge new forms of collective organization:

“In detailing its durations of battles, the General Assembly (GA) made the following propositions:

  • The reinforcement of its self-organization by the integration of more delegates and volunteers of all villages by their distribution into commissions according to the tasks it has accomplished and the demands to stop and take charge;10
  • An improved organization of volunteer actions concerning vigilance and security as well as trash collection, particularly around Suq n Tlata;

-Taking charge of repairs in different sectors: the supply of drinking water, sanitation, public lighting, etc.;

  • Scientific and cultural activity in organizing nightly festivities after the GA’s tasks are completed;
  • Quarantining those elected by the shameful alliance, requiring that they resign within 24 hours, the denunciation of their sponsors and support as well as all participants in the various attempts at manipulation in the instrumentalization and intimidation of high school (and other) students and communal workers;

-The construction of a general strike and other large-scale actions.”

Therefore, the General Assembly is not just an organization for struggle and resistance. It has become an everyday meeting place and takes charge of various aspects in the maintenance of the commune: trash collection, the distribution of fuel for schools, cleaning, etc. Mabrouk spoke also about how the employees of the People’s Communal Assembly (PCA) hadn’t been paid in four months: “These are people who have four, five, or six children. In order to take care of them these past four months, we organized together to find money and food, to respond to their needs… In addition, we help the sick who may be in need of passports to travel to France or Belgium for healthcare, and we take care of that for them. We also do the same for the maintenance of schools, supplying them with fuel and supplying their cafeterias.” Some business owners and residents even contributed to finance certain projects. Mabrouk recounts: “This is how we’ve worked from then until today. We have assemblies all the time, we work in solidarity. We want a PCA of the people, not a PCA of power.”

This collective handling of the organization of the commune leads to a form of revolutionary radicalism. In its “Open Letter to Everyone” dated January 22, 2013, the OGA announces:

“We will spare no effort to build any bridges necessary to expand our movement to all the Algerian people for a genuine emancipatory social revolution to federate our multiple discontents, oh so legitimate, and all of our actions. In Sidi Buzid, it was a suicide. In Barbacha, it was a ray of hope that shined through.”

January 26, 2013: the six legitimately elected members of the PST and the NRD (Rassemblement national démocratique11) resigned and gave their power of attorney to the Assembly to move toward the dissolution of the PCA and to provoke new elections. The Assembly also decided to demand the resignation of the entire prefecture. In its Communiqué No. 6 of January 29, 2013, it calls on the entire population of Barbacha and “every person convinced of the justness of our battle, wherever they may be” to stage a general strike on commune territory on January 31, with “the shutdown of all access from midnight to 4 pm.” The communiqué ends, “Long live the people, organized and conscious. Long live the people’s solidarity. We are moving forward.”

But on January 30, the FLN building is burned down. Claiming their strategy to be “peaceful,” the OGA condemns this action which it sees as provocation from the State to justify its repression. Communiqué No. 7 of January 30, 2013 proclaims:

“We are telling all Hamhamists,12 enemies of the people at the bottom of society, that these kinds of acts will only reinforce our determination to fight you, you and your sponsors, until victory. Our battle is neither tribal nor individualistic. It is a real class struggle that started in Barbacha. It is the will of the people against the will of bourgeois and mafia power that, instead of serving the people at the bottom of society, offer themselves as servants to global and imperialist capitalism.”

The exceptional regime applied for so long in Kabylia and the regimes of repressive terror deployed during the Berber Springs and the 1990’s both left permanent scars on the relationships in Algerians’ movements regarding the use of violence. In Barbacha, the majority of the population—which participated in the burning down of a police station thirteen years earlier [in 2001]—seems to prefer occupations and blockades of buildings, roads, or towns as well as mass marches and general strikes. But in the debate between the residents (which we attended), the partisans of armed insurrection, although in a minority, are not stigmatized or cast aside; they are respected in their perspectives and are integrated into the struggle. It seems there is a predominant will to minimize employing acts of violence the more co-opted they can be by power and the more useful they could be to justify the remilitarization of the territory, while completely undertaking all forms of offensive direct action when the situation necessitates it. For example, a young anarchist in Barbacha who is very involved in the Assembly prefers what he calls “nonviolence,” and says, “even in my interventions within the movement, I defend the idea of sometimes utilizing violence, such as, for example, burning the ballots next April 17 [the date of the presidential elections]. I see all the psychological scars of past movements, like the events of 2001. Just seeing a gendarme makes us want to burn everything down.” In Barbacha, these debates seem to uplift the movement rather than dividing it.

The general strike of January 31, 2013 is a success. During the popular meeting at the end of the day, much of the population decides to organize a march and then a sit-in in front of the Wilayah of Béjaïa on February 3. The OGA adds “a more radical action, namely the blocking of street traffic access to both entrances of Béjaïa.” Both of these actions are massively implemented, but they don’t suffice for the Prefecture to give in. In Communiqué No. 9 of February 4, 2013, the Assembly speaks of the risk of a “fratricidal bloodbath among Barbacha residents” if the demands of the population are not met. Faced with the “masquerades” of a power that’s attempting to criminalize them, they become from then on an organ of people’s self-management.

“Our movement is jealous of its own independence. It is above all parties and all partisan logic. We pronounce our decisions in total democracy (direct, we should say) in an Open General Assembly that we have adopted as a popular commitment to our conscious organization. […] We forbid you to judge our method of struggle. We have already declared that we have passed the stage of rioting. Our movement is highly peaceful and of an exemplary maturity.”

On February 11, the minority opponents of the OGA try again to enter the PCA to reinstall the “Mafioso” mayor, but they are stopped by the local population blocking access to city hall. In response, the Assembly calls for a new gathering in front of the Wilayah on February 17. The Wilayah’s administrator agrees to meet with the representatives of the OGA and the PST. During this meeting, the decision is made to reopen the Daïra, but without its official leader, and confer limited administrative powers to the General Secretary of the Daïra, Toufik Adnane. He is in charge of the Assembly’s management of the “current affairs of the commune,” meaning mainly administrative records, the payment of municipal employees as well as the deliverance of birth and death certificates (which the population needs to proclaim its rights). In consequence, the representatives of the OGA decide to cancel the rally scheduled for February 17. But they plan a new “peaceful” march and encampment in front of the Wilayah’s headquarters on March 24.

That Sunday, March 24, marks a turning point. Faced with 2000 demonstrators blocking the headquarters of the Wilayah of Béjaïa, the Wali calls on riot police who intervene with extreme brutality, injuring many people—one young demonstrator even has both legs broken.

Twenty-four people are arrested, including Sadeq Akrour, the PST mayor, who is released—with bandages around his head from the beatings—after 24 hours from the pressure and acclamations of hundreds of people that came to wait for his release. On March 25, the OGA announces a new general strike in Barbacha to pick up the comrades that were arrested the day before in Béjaïa.

Emotions run high in Kabylia as they do in the entire country. Especially since during this time news has spread of the government’s use of police force against the demonstrations of unemployed workers in the south. “This is how, while struggling for the unconditional liberation of our six comrades under judicial control, it is now more urgent than ever to find new methods of struggle in order to prevail with the success of the so-called principal demands,” states Communiqué No. 20 of March 26.

The mobilization does not weaken. On Sunday, March 31, hundreds of Barbacha’s residents demonstrate again in front of the court of Béjaïa where six of their own are scheduled to appear for a hearing. They demand all legal proceedings be suspended. They also announce national actions for upcoming days to impose the dissolution of the municipal council and to demand new elections. The OGA calls for a general strike in Barbacha and a gathering in front of Béjaïa’s courthouse on April 9, the trial date of the 24 arrested. More than a thousand demonstrators rally in front of the court to protest and the general strike is massively undertaken.


Axxam n Caâb, House of the People, Barbacha, February 2014. The banner reads, “Long live the struggle for only struggle pays off.”


All this pushes the population to further develop methods of self-organization. Communiqué No. 23 of April 11, 2013 states:

“The path is still long and difficult. Therefore, the reinforcement of the self-organization of the population must be our permanent task: it is necessary to strengthen the current village committees and create new ones in villages and neighborhoods not yet organized. Because the relative return of the maintenance of the Daïra and City Hall constitutes an important step in our fight, the real development of our Commune must be our strategic objective. […] These are our true battles: the Buâmran mine, the mini-dams, town fuel resources, the high school, the CEM of Tibkirt, RN 75, 13 the Commune’s and Wilayah’s roads, telephone and internet services, machines, agriculture and forestry, youth and leisure, etc. A true synergy of the people at the bottom of society is more than indispensable to move forward and succeed with this project.”

April 19 and 20, 2013, the Assembly is in charge of organizing the festivities commemorating the Berber Springs of 1981 and 2001. It is in this context that the idea emerges and gains momentum that a people’s assembly is the best and most legitimate means to solve the problems of the inhabitants and collectively improve their lives. In their Communiqué No. 26 of May 2013, the OGA states that it’s convinced that the nomination of the General Secretary to manage the Daïra does not bring desired solutions for the population. The Assembly also denounces “all tentative desire to rehabilitate the mayor of the alliance and his team in order to put them in command of our glorious commune.” Rightfully, on May 22, Mohamed Benmeddour, his team, and the members of the “alliance” tried once again to enter city hall. But they were again pushed out by the crowd. However, the Assembly decided in favor of a concession: the reopening of city hall. This is as much about managing “current affairs” as much as it is of “the critics.”

During the summer, the Wilayah blocks all power of signature from the General Secretary—the only finances it leaves at his disposable are for “a closure,” destined to protect the Daïra as well as the means to reinstall the gendarmerie. The General Assembly challenges the unwillingness of the Wilayah, stressing the fact that the population has accepted making concessions (notably, the reopening of city hall). In the “Appeal of September 21,” the OGA thus denounces: the reduction of communal services to a strict minimum; the fact that communal workers were receiving their payments bit by bit, and, if they’re lucky enough to receive them, months late; the refusal of the Wilayah to approve the budget of 2013 (which stifles the communal treasury); the shutdown of all construction sites, especially of the local high school; the end of the school bus service (the bus drivers have not been paid and neither have any of the suppliers for the school’s cafeteria) and the “squatting of the local commune by the gendarmerie.”

Finally, after a long wait, on October 1, the General Secretary is authorized by the Minister of Interior to divide the budget and pay the commune’s employees. But during the entire fall of 2013, the “shameful alliance” tries many times to get back into city hall. Each time, the people of Barbacha, united and determined, prevent them. To present their discontent about the installation of the mayor, a large popular meeting is organized on November 29, 2013. A thousand residents participated, voting by a show of hands against the shameful alliance. “Of the more than one thousand people responding to our call, only three hands were raised (one ironically) in approval of the installation of the infamous mayor of the RCD-FLN-FFS shameful alliance, Mohammed ‘Mahmoud’ Benmeddour, whom we had generously invited to speak. It was an authentic referendum worthy of a real people’s direct democracy, unknown anywhere else,” stated Communiqué No. 32 of December 6, 2013.

The struggle doesn’t budge. However, the demands directed to the State and public powers for the shutting down of judiciary pursuits, the dissolution of the PCA, and the funds destined to develop the commune are all unsuccessful. More radical perspectives emerge among the population.


Da Elhamid.


And What if the People’s Assembly Completely Replaced City Hall?

The battle for new elections and to establish a “legitimate” city hall comes with numerous concessions. It begins with the return of the gendarmerie, although it would be kept out of the commune and will avoid all conflict. Mabrouk says that the State justifies the reinstallation of the gendarmerie as a measure to protect the population against “terrorism.” Additionally, Da Elhamid tells us that not very long ago, the gendarmes would have arrested us for having our discussion. “Nothing has changed, it’s still the same system. Because even the gendarmes [might as well be] colonial gendarmes,” he says.

The reinstallation of the gendarmerie is not the only concession. The residents that are in favor of having new elections plan also to give the House of the People back to the PCA as a measure of goodwill. This is summarized in Communiqué No. 30:

“If the logic of appeasement and advancement moves toward the final unblocking of this conflict, and the return of the meeting place (the Axxam n Caâb) to the Commune (nobody questions its character as a communal good) can help reinforce this dynamic, we are ready for this. However, the public powers must know that it’s because of this meeting place that the movement has remained peaceful and refined in wise judgment. In any case, the General Secretary was allowed to use it whenever the necessity arose. By default, each one of us will assume responsibilities. […] We are neither terrorists nor are we cowards. We are the planners of adventures and are consciously organized with the single goal of allowing our commune to have its part in development and that our proud people have the means to assume their full duty to contribute to the veritable liberation of our dear country, Algeria, and so that it can contribute to the construction of a universal project that can liberate all of humanity.”

A city hall, even if it’s far-left and sincerely engaged with its residents, cannot do anything that can radically change the lives of people. It would remain a manager, a hierarchy, a link in the network of the powers of the state and capital. It may represent the people, but it is not the people. Mayor Saddek Akrour summarized the role attributed by the state to the PST while in office during the preceding mandate: “We suddenly found ourselves in a feedback loop of public finances between oil profits and private enterprises.”14 In this context, and since the basic demands for the economic development of the commune were not carried out, a growing number of the residents are conscious of the fact that the Assembly should not just be reduced to a tool only for struggle, but that it could become a structure of political, economic, and permanent social self-organization.

By the end of the month of December 2013, the state still had not satisfied the demands that the OGA had presented in exchange for the return of the leader of the Daïra. Those in the camp that think that the People’s Assembly should completely replace all forms of State power are again reassured. Da Taïeb, whom we meet in February 2014, sums up his strategy. “We have to completely destroy the Algerian system. It’s not just about Bouteflika,15 his ministers or his walis: the state must be completely destroyed. Only generals live well in Algeria, the people have nothing. Rich state, poor people! This is why the people revolt. To take back our rights. Because there is a way! This is hoggra.16 Look! A Member of Parliament gets 35 million dinars per month or more, plus an international passport, while any other employee in the commune makes only 15,000 dinars! […] We are protestors and we wish for other marginalized people like us come to our aid, that we all unite, that we help one another.”

He is interrupted by a friend, “What interests us is not the elections, but in assembling together […] to struggle against this system.”

The reflection on the elections and the political parties has effectively evolved amongst the residents of Barbacha who have invented a way to manage themselves and their own lives. The position of the welder we met is clear: “The political parties, I don’t like them. Because with parties, you raise a person up, and once they’re at the top, ‘the king is dead, long live the king’—it’s always been like that. Because I have spent a long time in political parties, they don’t interest me anymore. Because as soon as someone is at the top as a Member of Parliament or a mayor, once he goes up, that’s it, you never hear from him again, and then the day he needs the people, he comes back, he whines. ‘We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that…’ and at the end there’s nothing. These people are only interested in power and money.”

Confronting the state and capitalism that are ravaging its territory and very existence, the people of Barbacha lead a continuous struggle for a dignified life. Through the practices of mutual aid and collective resistance, they invent an emancipated society on an everyday basis. Like others before them, notably in Chiapas, they do not attempt to take state power but to dissolve it, along with capitalism, via federated self-organization in communes. Like the Zapatistas, they know that solidarity is a weapon when coordinated struggles come together.

This is the welder’s conclusion: “We have to fight where we are. If everybody fights together, in France, in Morocco, here… we can improve things.” And as the elderly Da Taïeb tells us, “Alone, the residents of Barbacha won’t be able to throw this out. So we are trying to create a great movement, a bulldozer, to destroy it.”

Further Reading

“Carry on Kabylia!”—An article about the 2001 uprising from the eco-defense journal Do or Die

  1. European supporters of and participants in the Algerian Revolution were referred to later as pieds-rouges.

  2. Generally unknown in English-speaking countries, a “gendarmerie” is a French word (and French invention) for a military police force involved in the law enforcement of rural regions. In Algeria, they are substantially militarized and brutal, thus particularly despised. —Trans.

  3. Subdivision of a Wilayah (prefecture), that is to say, a sub-prefecture. [A Wilayah (an Arabic word) might be better understood in English as “region,” “province,” “county,” etc. A Daïra, unique to Algeria and the Western Sahara, can be best translated as “district.” —Trans.]

  4. PST: Parti Socialiste des Travailleurs (Socialist Workers Party), an anticapitalist and internationalist party founded in 1989, a member of the Fourth International.

  5. RCD: Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie (Rally for Culture and Democracy), social democratic party created in 1989 founded after the formation of the Mouvement culturel berbère.

  6. FLN: Front de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Front), current party of the State under the ruling military junta.

  7. FFS: Front des Forces Socialistes (Socialist Forces Front), social democratic party founded in 1963.

  8. Axxam n Caâb: this is Tamazight, not Arabic. —Trans.

  9. Daho Ould Kablia (born 1933), former Interior Minister of Algeria in charge of Algeria’s gendarmerie, among other bureaucratic affairs. —Trans.

  10. This peculiar phrasing at the end of the sentence is in the original French. —Trans.

  11. National Rally for Democracy, liberal party founded in 1997. —Trans.

  12. Opportunists that only act to fill their bellies.

  13. RN: Route National. A highway. —Trans.

  14. Interview in Paris, 2008.

  15. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, current President of Algeria, in power since 1999. —Trans.

  16. In the Algerian Arabic dialect, the word hoggra (also spelled hogra), often translated as “oppression,” means having one’s rights denied to them, being cheated, exploited, humiliated, or scammed by a ruler, authority figure, or government. The term was used frequently during the Arab Spring in Algeria. One conducting hoggra is known as a haggar. —Trans.

Tags: Crimethinc.Rojavacurrent strugglescategory: International
Categories: News

Yes, this $375 ‘antifa’ jacket from Barneys is actually real

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 17:13

From The Daily Dot

Those who identify with the antifa movement are against fascism and, usually, capitalism. So, naturally, Barneys is selling an ‘anarchy jacket’ for $375. The military-style field jacket is adorned with an anarchist symbol and various on-brand statements. The front says “REVOLUTION” across the chest with a couple of backwards letters to evoke just the right amount of edge, and the back says “Seek Truth” and “The Devil Made Me Do it,” complete with a small illustration of a devil’s tail. The jacket looks like something that teens have been making themselves for years with sharpies and patches.

After photos of the jacket surfaced online, people began ridiculing it on Twitter.

Lmao pic.twitter.com/uu6ZY5psQ4

— Ben Shapiro is 5'4" (@viperwave) November 3, 2017

Alpha Industries, the manufacturer of the jacket, started off as a contractor for the U.S. military and has a long history of making field jackets and bomber jackets. Angelyn Fernandez, VP of Product at Alpha Industries, said in an e-mailed statement to the Daily Dot said that the inspiration behind the jacket is “self-expression.”

“We have seen resistance to power and authority become a trend in our current pop culture and society, often expressed through fashion,” she said. “Since 1965 the M65 field jackets have been a favored method to graphically express one’s opinion. We developed the Barneys M65 anarchy jacket to encompass the artistic and graphic expressions of individuality.”

But the internet did not appreciate the manufacturer’s effort to try to sell a political movement on a jacket.

*swipes platinum Amex card *
"Welcome to the resistance"

— panamaorange (@panamaorange) November 3, 2017

The Official Clothing Partner of Antifa Ltd

— Max Awfuls (@MaxAwfuls) November 3, 2017

1. Go to the army surplus store
2. Buy a jacket for $17
3. Tell a high school sophomore to write his #edgy thoughts on it
4. Profit

— The Real J Roberts (@NotThatJRoberts) November 3, 2017

Anarchy™ https://t.co/Ghbh2j46hd

— Dr. Pepper 2 (@VirtualPlazaMax) November 3, 2017

FIGHT THE POWER! ANARCHY! (Only $375 from Barneys department store) https://t.co/vycutNHqAv

— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) November 3, 2017

It'll go great with my pre-ripped, pre-paint-spattered, pre-patched jeans and artisanally-soil-rubbed professionally-scuffed sneaks https://t.co/paiu8tiv6U

— Iron Spike (@Iron_Spike) November 3, 2017

they didn't include the saying 'when the people have nothing to eat, they will eat the rich' wonder why https://t.co/DIyWmpaA4j

— Asia Murphy (@am_anatiala) November 3, 2017

“Anarchy cotton blend” is my favorite intentional arrangement of English words since “Sex Pistols MasterCard." https://t.co/K0ElR0wt5n

— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) November 3, 2017

Here’s the kicker:

I'm dying: "Dry Clean Only." https://t.co/pJaemFNYL3

— Maria Chong (@mariachong) November 3, 2017

The revolution will be dry clean only. https://t.co/YcCMwJ2Mst

— Dan Lactose (@DanLactose) November 3, 2017

The jacket is dry clean only.

Tags: fashionconsumerismthe spectacleMSMcategory: Other
Categories: News

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